What to consider as you write your return-to-work strategy

Staffing and recruitment firm Yoh is exploring a wide range of workplace changes.
By: | May 5, 2020 • 3 min read
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series related to coronavirus around returning-to-work strategies and priorities for HR leaders.

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As the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, HR professionals are now facing what may be the biggest challenge of their careers: managing and growing their business in what seems to be an impossible, impractical and intolerable working environment.

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At staffing and recruitment-services organization Yoh, senior leaders have been strategizing for the eventual return to work for months, meeting at least twice a week, says Kirt Walker, vice president of HR at Yoh, which supports approximately 15,000 global employees and independent contractors. While the company’s goals have remained the same, he says, the process to achieve them has definitely changed.

Read all of HRE‘s coronavirus coverage here.

Yoh’s leaders have been considering many aspects of their return strategy, including performing daily temperature checks of employees; requiring employees to wear masks and gloves; redesigning offices with taller partitions separating workspaces; physically returning employees to work in phases; offering hoteling, a process by which employees reserve office space on specific days instead of being assigned to a specific work area.

Meanwhile, hand-sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the main office, which has been disinfected. Employees have also been responding to weekly questionnaires about their potential exposure to COVID-19. Sample questions include: Have you been in physical contact with anyone who tested positive for the disease? Do you have any symptoms? Have you traveled to any hot spots? So far, Walker says, one employee and an independent contractor have tested positive.

The company’s leadership team also asked employees what they expect when they return.

“They were concerned about personal protective equipment [PPE], hand sanitizers, physical distancing and how they can be sure they’re safe if they come in contact with someone who’s been infected,” Walker says, adding that leaders are also “keeping it human” by engaging returning staff in conversations to help alleviate their anxieties or fears.

Regardless of how and when states and countries allow people to physically return to their workplaces, Walker says, his company’s leaders won’t budge until they feel ready.

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“Without encouraging any hysteria, be frank with people,” he says, explaining that Yoh leaders routinely explain to employees how COVID-19 is negatively impacting the company, what’s being done to reduce that impact, how they’re preparing for all employees to return and what will be expected of them.

“This is a process. There are going to be changes. Show empathy and have some fun. It doesn’t all have to be serious.”

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For the legal do’s and don’ts, please check back for part 2 or click here.

Carol Patton is a contributing editor for HRE who also writes HR articles and columns for business and education magazines. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.