WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER - Three HR lessons learned as we face the new normal
The negative impacts of Covid-19 in the workplace are obvious. As HR leaders, many of us were forced to make difficult decisions in a situation where there was no history and no protocol. In recent days, as I’m talking with my team and other peers in HR, there’s one thing I’m certain of as we adapt to the new normal—there is no one right answer.
At Flexential, just last month, we welcomed non-essential employees back to our offices in phases—red teams and blue teams, alternating weeks in an abundance of caution to be careful of potential cross-contamination. Before coming into the office, employees are required to report their health status in our online wellness platform to ensure we’re reducing the potential risk across all our offices. Employees can return on a voluntary basis because there’s still so much uncertainty, and many struggle to manage children who would otherwise be in daycare or school.
When the pandemic began, I was grateful to listen and talk with other HR practitioners in forums and advisory groups. There’s solace in knowing we’re all in this together, and thanks to those conversations and my experiences these past few months, I’m offering some lessons I have learned.
Believe it or not, there are silver linings to this pandemic. Never before in the workplace have I noticed a greater focus on the wellbeing of employees. There’s been increased attention on what people are facing – balancing children, physical and mental concerns, or perhaps the job loss of a spouse and financial hardships. As a company, we've tried to make sure our employees know that we care and support them. Consequently, employees are sharing more with their colleagues about themselves, their families, their pets or children. In many cases, working from home has broken down walls and allowed many of us to open up.
We have offered virtual yoga classes for employees, and webinars on how parents are coping, as well as mental health resources and articles. And when local eateries were closed, we made sure that our essential workers received catered lunches on-site.
What have your organizations done to focus on your employees’ wellbeing?
The Importance of Communication
As an essential business, our data centers remained open during the pandemic. Our original plan was to re-open to the rest of our offices to employees on a voluntary basis after the 4th of July. We’ve been sending out weekly updates to our employees - even when we don’t have all the answers, it’s appreciated. Also, we have been listening through surveys to understand the pulse of our employees and keeping a watch on what's happening in states where we operate. The surveys indicated people weren’t ready that soon, so we pushed our voluntary phase-one reopening to September. Having a two-way communication with your employees is essential.
Are you listening to your employees? What are you hearing?
Like our decision about when to re-open, my biggest take-away from this situation is the need to be flexible and agile. Know whatever you decide to do is likely to change as you get more feedback, or things change in our communities and the greater world. The only certain thing is – that not everyone in your organization will have the same comfort level about returning to work. The “new normal” will be defined differently from organization to organization. What are some of the nuggets that you can take away from others to build a strategy that’s purpose-built for your company?
I’d enjoy hearing what you’ve learned as your organization has adapted to the new normal. Do you have advice for the rest of us? Or what was the most important lesson you learned during the pandemic?