Author: Rachel Aleknavicius, Vice President
Though the world is slowly reopening and recovering from the hardships brought on by COVID-19, it’s clear that the challenges we all experienced will stay with us for the years to come. We’ve collectively coped with the hardships of this global event together and are now acclimating to the socializing and outings we were accustomed to before the pandemic.
In spite of the underlying similarities in our experiences over the last year and a half, each person’s struggles were unique to their individual circumstance. Many people lost more than time away from friends and family, and dealt with these hardships in solitude. Re-entering the world is exciting, but coping with post-pandemic fatigue is a new hurdle to jump. The exhaustion from managing a home, careers, and mental wellbeing has left many people tired and anxious.
Throughout the pandemic, HR held the hands of employees, provided virtual support by ensuring needed resources were available, and communicated company policy to employees. HR has always been the heart of every organization because it’s the department that advocates and cares for employees. As office doors begin to reopen, work environments have evolved. Now more than ever before, HR needs the resources to assist employees not only within the office buildings, but also those working remotely.
Depending on how you look at it, the temporary remote work environment can be seen as a gift from lockdown. Flexible work environments, perhaps even fully remote environments, are here to stay. As HR teams work to ensure office spaces are safe for employees to return to, they also need to consider what they should do to ensure that remote employees are safe as well.
When building out policies on remote work, here are some things worth thinking about:
- Is your organization providing reasonable accommodations for remote workers?
- Has HR updated the employee handbook to account for remote work?
- Are there rules of engagement that define what remote work is?
- Do benefit programs work for out-of-state employees and provide adequate coverage?
- How do organizations virtually engage with employees and allow for employee connectedness and culture?
The reality is that employees are tired. Pandemic lockdowns were exhausting social experiments, which is why HR is now working to address COVID-19 fatigue and enhance employee mental wellness programs. Many organizations are looking for ways to add levity to the work environment and provide employees a respite from pandemic fatigue.
Many employees have become anxious because of the and like they didn’t accomplishment much during the pandemic. Surviving alone is not an adequate reward for many people, particularly employees searching for career growth. Because of this, HR will be expected to assist with employee training and career development.
Since we were unable to leave our homes during the pandemic, our purchasing habits changed. We began purchasing what we could, remotely. The same is true for healthcare. Employees took advantage of telemedicine, a trend we anticipate will continue post-pandemic. We expect to see employees ask more questions pertaining to their benefits and seek more benefit options from employers. HR teams should consider advocating on behalf of employees by bolstering voluntary benefits offerings with supplemental life, critical illness, hospital indemnity, and accident, which employees can purchase to feel more secure with their coverage.
Compliance is an area HR continuously stays abreast of. COVID led to a lot of changes in the compliance landscape, especially after the passage of the American Rescue and Protection Act. HR teams needed to learn about these changes, specifically as they pertained to FSA plans and COBRA subsidies available to employees.
Lastly, the death of George Floyd showed us how our nation remains racially divided, which made Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives a priority for many companies like never before. HR is now responsible for bringing racial equity to the forefront of company culture and developing ways for diverse faces and voices to be seen and heard. Finding ways for us all to learn from each other, help each other, and lift each other up defines the role of HR.