Workplace Policy Check-Up Prepares for the ‘New Normal'
Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies still struggle to manage the workplace and personnel realities they face. From remote work policies; to how, when, and whether workers should come back to the office; to how technology is deployed and used, a quick check-up of practices and policies can help ensure the office reflects the new reality.
As your organization weighs return-to-work options, or has decided to continue work-from-home efforts for the time being — or some combination of the two — reviewing these internal policies may improve performance no matter where work is done ...
- Ensure open lines of communication. Communication is critical, especially when directives change with fluid conditions. Did office-wide video or conference calls keep the team apprised of changing realities and policies? Were managers and their teams encouraged to correspond more frequently to enhance collaboration or just ensure their people stayed connected? How can your organization enhance the practice going forward?
- Maintain clear directives. In times of crisis, some directives are temporary. Others may become permanent. Sending employees home to work, for example, might have required additional guidance related to how “work time” was spent or whether employees must “check in.” How or whether the use of personal computers, smart devices, or personal email was acceptable and how company/client data is stored and/or shared may need particular ongoing guidance, especially for industries like health care, law, and accounting, which each have heightened confidentiality requirements. Any changes to rules must come with clear directives.
- Work with employees who aren’t comfortable returning to the office. Many motivations can drive someone’s preference not to return to the office, health and safety being of primary concern. Beyond ensuring the office meetscurrent social distancing, disinfecting guidelines and best practices, and planning for a partial or full reopening in accordance with the latest governmental guidance, talk to your employees. Understand their concerns, while making clear the company’s expectations. Your organization may be compelled to make hard decisions regarding requiring people to return to the workplace. Work with HR or legal counsel to ensure compliance with EEOC and other regulations. In the employment context, one size does not always fit all. Some situations warrant a case-by-case review.
The pandemic has proven that companies and society must be prepared to pivot on short notice amid situations and conditions that once were unthinkable. Even if you now have systems and policies in place for ongoing remote work solutions, a recurring HR manual check-up by HR and employment counsel can help ensure the company doesn’t deviate from existing employment policy or is protected if it must.
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For more than 40 years, Tripp Scott has played a leadership role in issues that impact business such as employment law.
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Catalina Avalos is a director with the law firm Tripp Scott, PA. She practices in labor and employment and complex commercial litigation. A former county court judge, she currently is co-chair of the Broward County Bar Association Labor & Employment Section.
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