Around the world, we are watching the COVID-19 pandemic curve becoming flat.  Most of us are working remotely, exercising from home, teaching our children from home, and having family dinners over video conferencing. But we are still waiting to be able not to do so. We are anxiously waiting to go back to the office and school, get on a plane to travel, and go out. We are hoping this circumstance will be over sooner rather than later.  At the same time, we are also afraid that getting back to our old way of life is not safe yet.

It seems governments and officials are creating a new post-pandemic normal behavior for coming back to work, shopping, and not being in social isolation. The new normal of coming together requires precaution, so we do not spread the disease all over again. According to the research done by the World Economic Forum, “there is no returning to normal after COVID-19, but there is a path forward”. We need to change our past normal order of action and government businesses, and individuals will need to behave in a way that we find a way to balance employee safety (avoiding the possibility of new flare-ups) with the needs of the business.

To keep each other safe, most countries are recommending the following behavior of employees returning to work together in one space

  1. Daily temperature checks to make sure we don’t have a fever and are not developing something. If we do have one, best practice would be to stay home
  2. Wearing a mask in public places to protect ourselves and to protect others from us. It is in agreement by experts that wearing a mask can help us prevent the spread of the disease
  3. According to the FDA, regularly washing our hands and being extra careful with personal hygiene
  4. Disinfecting shared spaces, desks, and furniture to make sure we don’t get infected by mistake.

How can companies require employees to get their temperature checked without infringing on employees’ rights?

Keeping each other safe requires everyone to have a social responsibility and make sure to the best of their ability that they are healthy when they come to work. Employees should be able to check their temperature in private.  Logistics may dictate taking employees’ temperature upon arrival at work; still checking should be in private, and the identity of employees with fevers should be kept confidential. Managers should be aware, sensitive to this situation, and lead by example.

Some companies have also developed mini mobile apps that allow employees to check their temperature themselves and report them in the app.  Their reporting in the app or on paper is a claim that this was their temperature reading before coming in to work.  We believe trusting your employees to report themselves will help implement other social considerations required and enhance the trust and mutual respect teammates have for each other in the workplace. Not only do we believe teamwork is required to meet our business and career goals, we believe teamwork is required to adhere to healthy social responsibility for personal hygiene.  This guide provided by SHRM covers the official directive given to employers.

The effect of the new hygiene measures on corporate culture and workplace relationships

Hibob’s research has found that 77% of employees feel corporate culture is extremely important and making sure your company culture and employee engagement are still intact after weeks of remote work and these new requirements is a challenge.

On the one hand, companies do not want to ignore regulations and need to maintain a healthy work environment. On the other hand, companies don’t want to create additional stress and tension regarding these new regulations. Flexibility is the key to making people feel comfortable, and flexible schedules can be organized in many ways.

  1. Employees can come back to work in stages
  2. Employees can go back to work in shifts
  3. Business travel that is not critical can be postponed for now
  4. Employees should be advised to wear masks and disposable gloves, when relevant
  5. Companies can allow employees to continue to work at home

Help employees trust that they are working in a safe physical environment

Communicate clearly how you will be protecting everyone and keeping them safe. Explain the measures you will be taking and show how the workspace has been changed to accommodate the safety measures we need.

  1. Implement extra cleaning methods for the facilities to comply with strict hygiene methods
  2. Hold only smaller meetings for in-person, allowing larger groups to meet via video conferencing even while being in the office.
  3. Limit visitors to the office and require temperature checks and travel history
  4. Increase the physical distances between workspaces – see how you can change the workspace set up, so everyone has a larger distance from each other.

Remember we overcame WFH isolation using HR tech

We have seen a 143% growth in social media workplace communications during these WFH times. This tremendous growth was created by employees using tech to help them overcome WFH isolation. Slack, MS Teams, digital project management tools, and communication tools on HR tech tools all helped employees and managers maintain communications and keep the culture alive.

During physical, social isolation, teammates kept close by acknowledging hard work that was done and updating each other. HR leaders and managers used polls and surveys to get feedback and understand how people are doing. Don’t ignore your tech tools and keep using them even when some employees are coming back, and some are still working from home or on another shift. Take advantage of the WFH habits that were created.

Create relevant clubs and groups for giving back.

HR can make coming back to work meaningful in many ways. It is beneficial not to ignore the outside world; during these unprecedented times, people want to find ways to help others and give back. HR leaders can facilitate volunteering activities to engage employees.

The best groups or clubs created are the ones created bottom-up so HR can suggest and build the new clubs using HR tech, but the actual activities should be recommended by team members and create that feeling of solidarity.  Creating clubs and acknowledging people’s need to help others will enhance company culture and make working for your company even more meaningful during these times.

Coming back to work can be a substantial enhancement of company culture

With all the regulations, precautions, and health concerns from the pandemic, many people are hesitant to come back to their offices, use public transportation, and go back to the way things were only a couple of months ago. These first few weeks are a time for flexibility. Employers need to continue to keep in touch with people in and out of the office with the same digital tools they used while the employees were working from home. Finally, providing employees a way to give back and help others will make coming back to work meaningful in so many ways.

Zoe Haimovitch

From Zoe Haimovitch

Zoe is a passionate manager and leader. Together with her team, she builds our brand story. She loves to connect with people who are passionate about what they do, speak candidly, and are authentic and willing to work together.