After months of disrupted, changed and in some cases halted, workplaces and work practices, many are heading back to the office to begin what is being colloquially called ‘the new normal’. As the British government ends business and furlough support, businesses are returning to their premises and encouraging staff to do so, too.
To assume everything will revert back to the ‘way it was’ would be naïve, however: and many HR departments may find real challenges continue to lie ahead. Whilst of course, HR should leave their business’ managers empowered enough to deal with any issues with staff returning to work in the way that works best for their teams, now is the time for HR departments to reiterate their supportive role and proactively offer help where it may be required.
Ensure Managers Know How They Can Seek Help
Many Managers won’t ever have had to interact with HR unless there’s a specific problem – usually on payroll, a new starter or for complicated leave entitlement queries. Yet HR are a supportive force, and it’s important to reinforce the message to all that they’re there if needed; no matter how ‘small’ the question or advice sought. HR teams are able to do a lot more than advise on maternity leave and pension pots, and now is the time to do so. Amplify the ‘human’ in human resources!
Consider Extending Employee Assistance Programmes
Employee Assistance Programmes have historically held a reputation as something to be used only when an employee is struggling or in dire straits. However, with the circumstances of just about every human on the planet changing during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a good time to remind staff of just what is on offer through such support, and that it can be accessed with no judgment. If there are pre-requisites to accessing an EAP in your organisation (length of service, job level), consider removing it to make it open to all.
Encourage Clear Conversations
As all HR Professionals know, many difficult staff situations could be diffused early on with open and honest communications and conversations. Encourage managers to speak frankly and fairly with their teams and to keep communication channels open, even if they’re not of the traditional corporate variety. Similarly, encouraging managers to seek advice and support as early as possible can be hugely beneficial in moderating and even combatting HR issues before they escalate. Don’t allow the old image of HR to continue – you’re human too, and you’re just not there to intervene with legal loopholes when things go wrong!
As much as the times we’ve experienced are unprecedented, so too will be the period when millions return to work post-pandemic (and millions, sadly, don’t). HR departments must be continue to be agile and adaptable in their working and to work with and for their workforces now more than ever.