As the workplace gets back to business and works to establish the new normal, we update our coronavirus reopening tools and resources for employers.

A few weeks ago, we posted Coronavirus tools for employers: Reopening the workplace. If you haven’t checked it out, there are some helpful tools and resources. But at that point, much of the reopening was in the planning stages – the rubber hadn’t really met the road. Now that most states are in one stage or another of bringing employees back to the workplace, we are updating to post new thinking, tools, and experiences as we all work to establish “the new normal.”

First, it’s helpful to get a read on when organizations think they will resume “normal” operations. According to a recent survey by World at Work:

  • More than two-thirds (67%) of organizations plan to resume, or have already resumed, “normal” operations by end of summer.
  • As of June 1: 17% are currently operating normally; 25% will do so in June; 19% in July, 6% in August; and only 13% are deferring normal operations until 2021.
  • Click for responses on preventative measures, remote work and more.

In taking a read of employee sentient, things can be summed up in a few words – fearful, anxious, worried. A new study from The WellBeing Lab found that roughly 80% of workers surveyed don’t want to come back, citing virus fears. The study shows that employers and HR managers in particular face significant hurdles in helping to ease employee fears through prevention measures, communication, guidance and support.  Being aware of and addressing these concerns will help to allay fears.

Part of that is in addressing the health risks. Human Resource Executive examines the most critical concerns for organizations creating pandemic recovery plans, according to a new report from Forrester. These fall in three buckets: Workplace health and safety, privacy and compliance, and operational risks.

How do we address those risks?  We found this guide from HR Daily Advisor helpful: 10 Things Every Employer Needs to Do Before Reopening. It’s a compilation of recommendations from The National Safety Council in concert with the Safe Actions for Employee Returns (SAFER) task force.And this guide from a major insurer adds more on risk management: Chubb: 6 Steps to Prepare Your Business Facility for Reopening.

Moving to the new normal

Human Resources staff will be critical in ensuring the success of any efforts on several fronts. SHRM asked HR practitioners and other experts what lessons have been learned during the pandemic and what lasting impacts it will have on the way we work. From remote work to health benefits, employee morale to disaster planning, HR professionals are determined to help their organizations forge a new way forward. See: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Change the Way We Work

But what will the new workplace look like? McKinsey takes a look in Reimagining the office and work life after COVID-19. They look at the issue of remote work, noting that about 62% of the workforce worked from home during the pandemic vs about 25% prior to the pandemic, and they adapted quickly to technologies enabling remote work.  How did it go?

According to McKinsey research, 80 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home. Forty-one percent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 percent that they are as productive. Many employees liberated from long commutes and travel have found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoyed greater flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives, and decided that they prefer to work from home rather than the office. Many organizations think they can access new pools of talent with fewer locational constraints, adopt innovative processes to boost productivity, create an even stronger culture, and significantly reduce real-estate costs.

But can satisfaction and culture be sustained once the “we’re all in this together” crisis spirit wears off? And how much of the success could be attributed to the “social capital built up through countless hours of water-cooler conversations, meetings, and social engagements before the onset of the crisis?”  They ask if working from home succeeded only because it is viewed as temporary, not permanent. With these questions in mind, they suggest four important considerations for employers and HR staff in building to a new normal:

1. Reconstruct how work is done
2. Decide ‘people to work’ or ‘work to people’- which roles must be carried out in person, and to what degree?
3. Redesign the workplace to support organizational priorities
4. Resize the footprint creatively

Employers have a new opportunity to rethink how work gets done. Scott Cawood at BenefitsPro says that HR leaders can transform the role of HR from a shared service and support function to a key influence and leadership function. In his article HR professionals: The moment to champion innovation is now, he says that: 

CFOs are famous for “not wasting a crisis.” HR leaders can follow their example and transform the role of HR from a shared service and support function to a key influence and leadership function. The question now isn’t how an organization makes money; it’s how an organization’s people make sense of what has happened and how, then, are we going to make money.

Nate Randall of Human Resource Executive also talks about the role of HR at this critical junction and how HR leaders can use this time to put the people focus and culture change back in the job, while leading the charge in the rapidly evolving landscape. See 3 ways HR can support culture through the ‘new normal’

Back to business: More tools & resources for reopening

Federal Guidance

EEOC, OSHA and the CDC have updated guidance since our last post:




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