COVID-19: Navigating the changes in the world of work

Apr 29, 2020

COVID-19 continues to influence our daily lives and, in a very few number of weeks, many organizations have made the transition to a fully remote workforce. This significant shift in the working world has left an opportunity for human resources (HR) and people teams to step up and navigate the ever-changing environment, legislation and impacts of the pandemic.

What are we seeing in the workforce?

Trends in the workforce are arising from both a compliance perspective and employee engagement perspective. Companies are taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while still keeping their employees engaged and their customers happy. In a remote working world, it has become critical to be aware of one’s own surroundings while doing the most mundane tasks like traveling to the grocery store, pumping gas and picking up medication.

An increased focused on compliance is also now playing a significant role in the navigation of the changing workforce. Competitors are coming together and working proactively across various industries in an effort to receive, interpret and communicate out the constantly changing legislation in a way that is digestible to employees—in other words, how does this impact me?

Policy development and maintenance is critical in this time of need. Coordinating with municipality and state bodies to interpret the guidance can be challenging to navigate, but is critical to managing the impact of COVID-19 on a business. Employers need to make sure they are aware of all the assistance opportunities available to their employees. HIPAA regulations, FSLA and the Americas with Disabilities Act are just a few pieces of legislation that are being modified, and organizations often need help keeping ahead of these changes and communicating them out to the workforce.

The role HR plays in crisis management

Rapidly changing procedures have turned HR departments into triage centers for many of these complex employee-related areas. Now more than ever, it is the duty of HR to respond to safety in the workplace, facilitate ongoing employee engagement and most importantly, ensure that employees feel safe while reporting to work.

HR is responsible for mandating workplace safety and establishing measures such as physical restructuring of offices and workstations to ensure the rest of the employee population feels safe. For the confidential situations in which employees test positive for COVID-19, what are the policies around when that employee can return to work and how should those be communicated to the impacted parties?

During this time, it is the goal of many organizations to set up HR as a strategic decision enabler for these types of question by arming them with critical data. As the daily challenges continue to evolve, it is more critical now than ever that HR leaders stay informed and use that information to quickly adapt and propel their organization forward.

RSM contributors

  • Jennifer Busse