Over the past several months, many organizations have transitioned to fully remote work, weddings and graduations have been canceled, and destination vacations have been put on indefinite hold. Across the USA, COVID-19 numbers continue to vary wildly, with some states seeing dropoffs in their cases while others experiencing resurgences as they make attempts to reopen. Everyone is desperate for normalcy to return, but what that will look like after the pandemic isn’t completely clear yet.
Even though this isn’t the world’s (or even the nation’s) first pandemic, it’s hard to know exactly how – and when – it will end. Business operations will certainly be different in the post-COVID-19 world. HR departments in particular should start looking now at predictions for what “normal” life will be like in the future so they be prepared when employees return to their offices and business can operate as usual.
More Remote Work
At the beginning of the pandemic, many offices transitioned as quickly as possible to being fully remote. (Even now, as states are opening back up, many businesses continue to encourage working from home where feasible.) Many of these newly remote employees have found that they enjoy working from home and are more productive there. In-office work isn’t going to disappear, but now that employers have seen that workers can be just as productive from home as in the office and some employees have found they prefer working in the solitude of their homes, more companies will offer remote work options after the pandemic. In addition, because many companies have taken financial hits during COVID-19 and will be interested to reduce costs by cutting back on the amount of expensive office space they need.
Increased Wellness Programs
COVID-19 has taken a heavy mental, physical, and financial toll on many people. When the lockdowns and quarantines finally end, employees may need help getting back on track and destressing. By providing employees with resources and support in key wellness areas such as finances and mental health, companies can help those workers (and their organizations) adjust to the new normal.
Adjusted Sick Leave
With a new emphasis on staying healthy and everyone feeling a bit germaphobic, many companies may choose to adjust their sick-leave policies. This could mean allowing for more sick days so employees don’t feel the need to come to work if they’re unsure about their health. Or it might mean encouraging employees to perform symptom checks every morning and to work from home if they show any signs of illness, even if they are feeling well enough to work.
Whether or not working from home is possible, it seems likely that most employers will require or strongly encourage employees to wear face masks until COVID-19 is completely eradicated. If companies choose to have their employees follow this practice, they may wish to provide them with reusable or disposable masks.
Greater Emphasis on Company Culture
Well before COVID-19, HR departments have championed company culture. But the pandemic has helped workers and executives recognize the importance of having a strong company culture in place to raise employee engagement and company performance. Culture is easier to build and maintain in an office, where coworkers can model it for each other. But when the workforce is dispersed, a company’s culture is more likely to fracture – or even cease to exist completely. HR will need to work hard to counter that effect.
Altered Hiring and Budget Plans
COVID-19 has had a strong negative impact on the economy, with many businesses experiencing layoffs and expense cuts. Moving forward, HR departments must work with hiring and budget plans that look extremely different from the ones they had at the start of the year. With fewer funds available for hiring and recruitment, many HR departments will choose to look internally for candidates. It’s more cost effective to train a current employee to step into a bigger role than it is to seek out a new hire from outside. Not only will hiring internally save on costs, but offering promotions can help boost employee engagement and morale.
Because the pandemic has affected every business in different ways, it’s impossible to say exactly what the post-COVID-19 world will look like for any one organization. It is safe, however, to say that things will change. To help smooth the transition, companies should start planning now for their return to the office and eventual return to normal business.