Provincial governments have begun rolling out their gradual return to work plans. Businesses in many industries are starting to reopen and bring employees back into their workplaces. The challenge is reopening without knowing exactly how the pandemic will play out in the short and long term. There are a lot of unknown variables to consider when making decisions about your workforce, including:
- new work conditions
- when your business will reopen
- to what capacity
- how many people can be on-site
- physical distancing rules
- scheduling (staggered shifts,
- alternate days, etc.)
- the best way to manage your workforce
You have to manage uncertainty, address new and emerging challenges in real-time, and have a plan to build a strong and cohesive workforce. Even if your business is able to reopen, you can expect to manage a hybrid workforce, especially during the early phases of returning to work. Some of your people will continue to work from home, while others work on-site. Here are some tips to manage a hybrid workforce among the uncertainty of the pandemic:
looking for more insights to manage your workforce during the business recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic?
1. focus on your people
Putting your people first during times of uncertainty is essential. Take a deep dive to understand what your employees truly need to be successful when working at the office or at home. Talk to employees to understand their needs. Over-communicate, get employee input, and be open to new ways of doing things. Do what you can to support your team and ensure that everyone is on the same page whether they’re working on-site or from home.
2. clearly define roles
Some roles are better suited for working on-site, while others can be done remotely with ease. It’s important to determine the right balance between people working at home and on-site. You need to think about this in terms of safety, physical distancing, productivity, and necessity. Are there some employees who would be more productive in your workplace? Are there some employees who prefer to stay at home? Take employee feedback into consideration. Then clearly define schedules and the transition process.
3. redefine and design workspaces
Workspaces will likely need to be reorganized to meet new government regulations and social distancing rules. Will you need to put more space in between desks or workstations? Does that mean your current office capacity will be lower? Think about what makes the most sense for your company and workers.
If you do choose to move some people to more permanent remote positions, make sure they have the right tools and resources for their workspaces at home. During the initial phase of working from home many workers set up quick, temporary spaces at their kitchen table or living room couch that are safe or healthy long-term. Can you send them technology such as monitors or video cameras? What about office furniture such as a chair or desk? Will you subsidize their internet connection? Some companies are providing a flexible budget for employees who have been assigned to work from home on a more permanent basis to cover these added expenses and make the transition more seamless.
4. make changes in phases
The government is reopening business and the economy in phases. Follow a similar approach when managing your hybrid workforce. Don’t try to do everything all at once and send everyone back to work immediately. Slowly make changes in phases that you clearly communicate with employees for minimal disruption. Have a strategy, and ensure your business is secure at each step. Also, make sure you provide adequate support for your team.
5. be agile
The early phrases of transitioning back to work may include some trial and error so be open to making changes as necessary. Flexibility is a must. Expect things to change quickly. With so many people working from different locations and at different times, you need to be open to new ways of doing things. This may mean trying new protocols, using new tools, and giving your team the space to innovate as both you and they figure out this new normal way of operating.
6. set expectations
Even with things changing at a rapid pace, you need to set expectations for your people working in the office and for those working at home. Make it clear what is expected at the office. Make it clear what is expected of the employees working at home. Constant and clear communication is a key part of making sure that employees are on board with the changes you’re making and understand their role in this new way of doing things.
7. bridge the gap
There needs to be a way for you to bring your office and remote employees together. This may be in the form of video conferences, email chains, and other collaborative software. Find the best tools to ensure your office and remote employees can still work together, even though they are not in the same location.
8. have a plan to shift back to COVID-19 operations
We don’t know what the future holds. Even though you are reopening, there may be a time where you have to scale back again. Have a plan for the new way of doing business and the reality that you may need to open and close from time to time-based on future developments.
Managing a hybrid workforce will not come without its challenges. The more systematic approach you have, the more successful you will be at managing employees at home and in the office.