So much has changed since COVID-19 rocked the world of work, and things have been done on the fly so HR teams can keep up with everything that needs to be done. In the meantime, many formal HR policies have been left behind. They were created for a workplace and workforce that is so fundamentally different from what we have now, that they fail to encompass all they should.

As we dive into our “next normal,” it’s important to revisit your HR policies to ensure they meet your team’s needs. Here are some things to consider.

1. Flexible work

Two-thirds of companies plan to offer greater work flexibility following the pandemic. This includes flexibility in both when and where people work, and may include remote work, flextime, job sharing, and compressed work weeks. This is a no- or low-cost benefit that can provide better work-life balance, leading to more engaged, productive team members.

Your flexible work policy might outline:

  • Eligibility. Who is eligible for flexible work, and when? For example, you may ask new team members to work from the office for their first 60 days, or you might require all customer-facing team members to be physically present in the workplace. You may also require manager approval, and reserve the right to revoke flexible work arrangements if they’re no longer conducive to meeting your team’s goals or if team members aren’t meeting their objectives and key results (OKRs).
  • Expectations. Are there certain days or hours your team members should be available for collaboration or customer-facing work? For example, you might ask that everyone come into the office on the same two days each week, or that everyone work the same core hours (say 11am-2pm Pacific Time) every day. What else do you expect from team members taking advantage of flexible work? For example, a quiet, professional background for external meetings, or data security requirements for remote team members.
  • Exceptions. When do you make exceptions to your flexible work policy? For example, you may allow people at high risk for COVID-19 to work remotely prior to the 60-day waiting period. Or you might give more tenured customer-facing team members more flex work options than newer hires so you still have coverage when you need it. Outline exceptions so they can be applied fairly and consistently.

2. Compensation

Compensation has been affected in many different ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies froze salaries or implemented pay cuts in early 2020 to avoid or reduce layoffs and furloughs. Some increased compensation with hazard pay for essential workers. As companies begin hiring again, wages are increasing significantly—especially for low-wage and in-demand positions. Consider whether you will update your compensation policy to add an additional compensation review cycle, or use a Key Performance Indicator (such as offer acceptance rate or turnover rate) to trigger compensation reviews as needed.
If your organization is transitioning to long-term remote work, consider how relocation might affect compensation. For example, will you use location-based pay, zones, or a global rate to determine compensation as team members relocate to areas with different costs of market? This is important to update in your compensation policy so it can be communicated to team members, and applied consistently. 

3. Time off

The global health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus has led many organizations to rethink their sick policy and leave policies. While they once allowed (or even encouraged) team members to come to work when feeling ill, many now require team members to work from home or take time off to recover. And as full recovery can take days or even weeks, it’s a good idea to revisit your paid time off (PTO) policy to ensure time off is feasible for your team members, lest they come into the office before they’re fully well.

Some things to consider for an updated paid time off policy:

  • Eligibility. Expanding sick leave eligibility can enable more team members to stay home when they’re feeling ill. For example, providing paid leave to team members upon hire rather than mandating a 60-day waiting period, or including part-time workers in your paid leave program.
  • Dedicated sick leave. One big bucket of paid time off can discourage team members from taking sick leave, because they’d rather use PTO for vacations. Consider offering dedicated sick leave that team members can use to recover from illness, or care for a sick family member.
  • Negative balance. Some illnesses and health conditions could require more time away from work than your policy allows. Rather than reducing pay, consider whether the PTO can be earned back through continued employment, and only taken as a paycheck deduction if the employee leaves before the negative balance has been earned back.
  • Time off donations. Some of your team members may rarely get sick, and have extra sick leave accrued. Consider updating your leave policy to include a time off donation program, allowing team members to donate their accrued time off to someone else at your organization. 
  • Caps. Fewer people took time off due to the pandemic and their ability to work from anywhere, and many have accrued significant paid time off. Consider capping PTO accruals to encourage team members to take the time they need to recharge, and maintain their overall wellness. 
  • Location-specific differences. Your paid time off policy may need updates to remain compliant with local regulations. This could be the case due to remote team members working in different geographical locations, or due to COVID-19-specific laws that have passed. For example, employees who perform work in San Francisco are eligible for 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

4. Travel and meeting

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and may become endemic in the future, consider how you might adapt your travel policy accordingly. Video conferencing and virtual events have been normalized and fine-tuned over the course of the pandemic, having great potential to reduce or eliminate travel and in-person meetings in the post-pandemic world. This can keep your workforce healthier, improve work-life balance, and reduce your organization’s carbon footprint. 

For instance, you might update your policy to:

  • Encourage teleconferencing over face-to-face interactions.
  • Require masking and social distancing for indoor meetings with customers or colleagues.
  • Require team members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to be eligible for business travel and in-person meetings.
  • Ban business travel to high-risk areas.
  • Require a self-quarantine after visiting a high-risk area for personal travel.
  • Track event attendee contact information so people can be notified in the event of a possible virus exposure.

Final thoughts on examining your post-pandemic HR policies

The world of work is significantly different than it was just 18 months ago, and there’s a lot to consider as you revisit your HR policies. Consider what’s already changed as well as what needs to change, and formalize those updates with written policies and company-wide communication. As always, it’s a good idea to request team member input and feedback to create stronger policies and ensure better buy-in.

Want to learn more about preparing for the post-pandemic world of work?

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Examining What Post-pandemic HR Policies Should Look Like