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Return to Work 2020: 6 Imperatives for HR Managers

As HR leaders prepare for the next major shift, here are six imperatives that are guiding many of the mission-critical decisions that are happening right now.

1. Stay connected with health and government authorities

Monitoring virus infection rates and geographic trends is critical right now, as well as understanding the impact of federal, state and local regulations. Keeping a sharp focus on these areas will help ensure compliance and safety, minimize business disruption — and avoid fines, lawsuits and surges in infection rates.

Since the global outbreak began, Over 1,800 executive actions have been issued in total across the 50 U.S. states and territories.1

2. Prepare for the next wave

​Now is the time to develop iterative, flexible strategies that can adapt with workplace challenges and health and government mandates as the COVID-19 pandemic runs it course — and with the upcoming flu season on the horizon. Step up communications with employees including reminders about immunizations, safe workplace practices, and other prevention education.

Despite widespread expert agreement that a vaccine will be critical to the nation's return to normalcy, only 57% of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available today.2

3. Integrate new workplace policies

HR leaders are working through many changes as they prepare to welcome employees back to offices and factory floors. Integration of new policies including adjusted schedules, increased sanitation practices, masks, social distancing and other safety procedures are crucial — as well as having a detailed communications plan to engage and inform team members.

98% of U.S. executives will require employees to wear masks upon returning to work, and 80% will also requires customers to wear masks when visiting.3

4. Monitor workplace health using scalable solutions

To intercept the spread of COVID-19, HR leaders are considering a variety of monitoring measures such as daily self-health checks reported via app or other mechanisms, mandatory temperature checks, and using Artificial Intelligence-based trackers to monitor health and wellness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 40% of coronavirus transmission is occurring before the onset of symptoms.4

5. Promote health and wellness benefits

Communication about all available wellness resources is crucial now, as well as ensuring that employees are aware of Employee Assistance Program offerings. HR leaders should also consider new digital behavioral tools (such as online cognitive therapies and self-help resources) and also plan for virtual open enrollment this year.

During lockdown, 22-35% of employees reported experiencing symptoms of depression often.5

6) Accelerate workforce transformation

While this pandemic has been a time of great challenge, it also represents an opportunity for HR leaders to broaden workplace planning initiatives, digitize interactions, reexamine skillsets and look more critically at their mix of onsite vs. work-at-home resources.

Nearly 90% of executives say their organizations have pursued a major digital initiative or transformation in the past three years.6

Is your organization ready for the return to work?
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1. Stateside blog, 2020 State and Local Government Responses to COVID-19, July 2020
2. Tufts University’s Research Group on Equity in Health, Wealth and Civic Engagement, July 2020
3. McKinsey, Executive Survey, June 2020
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios, July 2020
5. Society for HR Management, Navigating COVID-19, Impact of the Pandemic on Metal Health, May 2020
6. McKinsey Digital, Global Survey, May 2019