With COVID-19 still surging in many parts of the world, it’s becoming more difficult to imagine work life in a post-pandemic world. Some health experts are predicting we may have to learn to live with COVID-19. Plans for returning to the office continue to get pushed back at many companies. And team member needs and preferences have continued to evolve.
What does the future have in store, and when will the “next normal” begin? Nobody can say for certain, and work life will certainly continue changing over time. Based on current trends, here are three areas you might want to consider now, for a smoother transition to the post-pandemic work life.
1. COVID-19 Pandemic
There’s no immediate end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s possible the virus could become endemic. It’s a good idea to begin thinking through long-term plans to handle COVID-19 and keep your team healthy and well.
This might include:
- Office updates: Make necessary changes to your office to mitigate the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak and help in-office team members feel more comfortable. For instance, space desks further apart, add sanitation stations with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, and install touchless fixtures. If possible, add an outdoor lunch area, improve office ventilation, and create an isolation room for sick team members.
- Mandated or strongly encouraged vaccinations: Some employers are now requiring their team members to get the COVID-19 vaccine, while others are strongly encouraging or incentivizing team members to get it. Consider your team members and customers in this decision, and leave space for medical or religious exceptions. You might also consider your requirements for wearing masks and getting tested for COVID-19.
- Updated policies: Create or edit your time off, travel, and COVID-19 mitigation policies to ensure they’re up-to-date and consistent. For instance, gather your masking, testing, and vaccination suggestions and requirements into a formal policy that can be easily referenced and consistently applied.
2. Hybrid work
Most (87 percent) people who have been working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue working remotely at least one day per week once the pandemic subsides. But the hybrid work model can be challenging to get right, even for companies that have been fully remote since the pandemic began.
Here are some things to consider as you transition to a hybrid workforce model:
- Policy: Outline your remote work policy, including who may work remotely and when, and what your requirements are. For instance, some companies are implementing core work hours but otherwise allowing for more scheduling flexibility.
- Office set-up: Two-thirds of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. For instance, some companies are implementing a desk reservation system, or updating their conference rooms with better microphones, speakers, and screens.
- Personal connection: Remote work can leave team members feeling isolated at times, so it’s important to be intentional about creating opportunities for personal connection. This could include a virtual game night, local meetups, or an annual company-wide live event.
- Development: A hybrid workforce model can sometimes create a second-class employee experience for remote workers which holds them back from advancing. Ensure remote team members have the same opportunities for development and promotion as in-office team members.
- Tools: Reevaluate your HR technology stack to make sure it supports in-office, remote, and hybrid team members alike. For instance, can your employee onboarding system accommodate different workflows for in-office and remote team members? Do your tools enable asynchronous communication, if needed for your distributed workforce?
3. Benefits and perks
With so much change since the pandemic began, your team members likely have different needs, wants, and expectations than they did just last year. It’s no surprise that 98 percent of company leaders plan to newly offer or expand at least one employee benefit.
Some examples of employee benefits and perks you may want to consider include:
- Health and wellness: The pandemic has really put the spotlight on health and wellness, as people tried to focus on their physical, mental, and social wellbeing in a time like no other. With perhaps fewer in-office perks, like catered lunches and team events, it may be wise to reinvest in health and wellness initiatives. For example, better access to mental health resources or home gym equipment reimbursement.
- Home office stipend: A good home office setup can help your team members be more comfortable and productive during their workdays. If you plan to offer remote work options long-term, consider a home office stipend to cover things like an ergonomic desk and chair, high speed internet access, or even a co-working space.
- Upskilling and reskilling: Many of your team members will want to progress in their careers, and you will need skilled workers to fill your future jobs. Developing your team members is a win on both sides of the table. A modern learning management system can enable upskilling and reskilling for in-office and remote team members alike.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to more change in our work lives than any event before it—and things will likely continue to evolve over time. Get feedback from your team members to learn what’s working, what’s not, and how you might improve. Reimagining work life after the COVID-19 pandemic is no small feat, but thinking about it now can help you be better prepared once we can fully enter our “next normal.”