Many companies are faced with the challenges of re-opening—or getting back to pre-coronavirus levels of operation—in the coming weeks. Opinions abound on how to best handle this massive undertaking. Some people are ready to get back to it, and others still have substantial concerns over their health and safety when they come back to their jobs.
As a Human Resources professional, you are not only tasked with getting the employees back to work, but you may also be dealing with your own questions and concerns. Topics that need to be addressed range from the cleanliness of the office to whether entire floorplans must now be redone to provide better physical barriers between employees (goodbye, open concept workspaces). An even more complicated topic to consider is whether the technology you already had in place is enough to keep your company moving forward as employees get back to work. If one thing is for sure, work life as we knew it is going to change in a post-coronavirus world.
One of the biggest changes many companies made was to quickly set up their employees to be able to work remotely. From customer service roles to senior management, many people can effectively do their jobs from home, rather than needing to be in the office. However, this raises a lot of questions, like “do we really need to come back to the office?” and “how do I manage a team that is now virtual?” Another big question is, “if we keep working remotely, do we have the right infrastructure to handle our business needs long-term?” Recent statistics show how rapidly the number of remote workers is increasing in the United States. Clearly, these are all very important questions to answer—and soon.
Long-Term Infrastructure for HR Professionals
Perhaps nothing is more important to virtual teams as technology. After all, none of this works without connectivity, video and teleconferencing, ease of sharing files, and more. Most of these measures are easy to implement. From Zoom and Microsoft Teams to Google Docs and other readily available, inexpensive apps and plug-ins, accomplishing the day-to-day workflow is fairly straightforward.
What gets more challenging is the technology needed for HR teams and management to effectively oversee employees. How do managers know their employees are getting their tasks completed? What metrics need to change in a virtual work environment? Who needs to work 8 AM – 5 PM Monday through Friday, and who can get more flexibility in their work week? What are the expectations around employees’ response times to internal requests? All these types of questions need to be answered for an HR department to effectively function.
Finding the Right Solutions with the Right Question
Like most things in life, there is rarely a “one size fits all” solution to questions like these—nor will every company have the same set of questions. Companies who had no one working remotely prior to the COVID-19 pandemic will likely face bigger hurdles than those who had at least some staff occasionally working remotely.
To find the right solutions, companies must first ask themselves the right questions. For example, there is no point in searching for better options for remote work if the company truly does not envision being able to sustain virtual employees. It’s not about “How can we do this?” unless the answer to “Do we want to do this?” is a definite “Yes.” As an HR leader, your first task is to help senior executives determine what makes sense and what does not, from an operational perspective. Once those goals are outlined, you can start looking for the best ways to meet those goals.
Integrating Technology Solutions
Once you know what your goals are, you can develop the action plans to achieve them. In terms of technology, options abound. You may already have certain systems in place that can be expanded to meet your new challenges. Or you could be looking to make some substantial changes. Either way, many HR professionals struggle to know where to begin. Getting unbiased reviews and summaries, as well as comparisons and breakdowns of their features, is a great place to start. Talking to your HR contacts at other organizations is another great way to get feedback on what is working for them. Just make sure your needs match theirs.
Navigating these challenging times will not be easy. However, with the right planning, you and your team will be able to help your company implement the changes needed to get back to work. And that’s great news for everyone.