We are all very immersed in supporting our companies and families during this global pandemic. With this comes a new set of challenges, that we don’t normally see as business continuity professionals, but are well within our skillset and should be brought forth to the appropriate areas of leadership. The goal is to ensure continuity of operations, or organizational resilience.
I would like to take a different approach to continuity, one that will hopefully become extremely relevant, soon: Employee comfort and security first, operational adjustments second.
There are going to be complex challenges that need to be planned for and addressed. They do not relate to technology, but instead to our most important assets: our employees. Our focus needs to shift from business process to people and that will start with Human Resources.
But how do we go about re-assimilating employees into the workforce and what questions will need to be proactively addressed?
1. The first one that comes to mind is what are they afraid of? The fear may be of still getting infected, or a possible reinfection, as was stated with China. It’s important to mitigate that fear as quickly as possible by making sure employees understand the measures being taken to ensure a clean and safe work environment.
2. The second question is most likely the most popular one we will see. If employees have been working just fine at home, why do they have to come back into the office at all? Employees may be reluctant or unable to return to work for any number of reasons. It’s important to give your team flexibility and understand that just because your office is re-opening does not mean their spouse’s office is re-opening, or that their children’s school or daycare is re-opening. (Rest assured there will be those that more than welcome the return to some normalcy and the chance to get away from their children.)
3. The third question I want to address is around money issues. How do we help employees who have come upon hard times financially? Even though they are still working for your company, other members of their immediate family may be out of work. Conversations around money are some of the most uncomfortable conversations to have.
Major life transitions can bring about anxiety, fear, apprehension, dread, and unease. Humans experience the most comfort when they have a sense of routine and normalcy. We are now faced with a new “normal,” so we must come up with a new routine. That’s why the return to work should be gradual for most employees. The new normalcy should be considered, and a plan enabled to address this. Reintegrating an employee who has been long absent can be difficult, but you can ease the experience by having a clear process in place.
Your team can and will get through this stage, just like they worked through the beginnings of the pandemic. Knowing they have people at your company who care about and support them will ensure that they can return to work with less anxiety and apprehension. Remember, your people are your most important asset. Make sure they know it!
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