How to Develop a Three Step Return to Work Strategy

June 30, 2020 | 4 minute read
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By Patrice Barbedette, Senior Vice President HCM Solutions, Europe, Oracle and Alessio De Fazio, HCM Principal Sales Consultant, Oracle

It’s more than likely that we are all considering what our new working normal will look like after the pandemic. This can depend on the impact of the lockdown on businesses, their financial situation, government policy, local medical advice, employment registration or the industry. In listening to our customers, HR is finding themselves at the forefront of keeping their employees safe and operating complex contingency and risk management plans.

At some point soon, our HR customers will, if they are not already, be turning their thoughts to their ‘return to work policy’. What might this mean and what might this look like?

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We know that returning to a workspace won’t be the way we worked before COVID-19 and there will likely be multiple phases. However, not all changes will be negative and some will be perceived as positive given we have learned new ways of remote and digital working during this unprecedented timeframe.

With this in mind, Oracle has generated a series of blogs and supporting webinar demos to discuss HR considerations in terms of planning for ‘Returning to the New Working Normal’ and how the Oracle Cloud HCM platform can be configured to help and support HR in these extraordinary times. This blog offers a 3 step plan that HR could undertake to understand what segments of their workforce should return to the workplace and by when.

Step 1: Workforce Management and Segmentation

One of the first considerations when developing an HR plan on returning to the new working normal is how and who are going to return to work first. With changing government and health policy that varies by country, access to accurate workforce data will be key to scenario and contingency planning.

HR workforce management leads will be working with operations to understand in addition to critical workers already at work, who should be in the first phase of returners. These will more than likely mean those employees that cannot work remotely due to the need to access equipment or because their work is at a specific site like construction. Additionally, others may need an increased secure environment for compliance or health and safely (i.e. Security, Defense, Research, etc).

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Step 2: Compliance, Policy, Health and Safety Modeling

Depending on government and health policy and the ability for working space to accommodate workers, the second segment of returners could include those that are less productive working remotely, since some are in working environments that have increased background noise or limited physical space or have a situation that is better optimized working in a team (e.g. IT scrum teams – where collective creative design is sometimes better face to face). Others who return could include those with immunity to COVID-19, a fact that will become more known as testing becomes available. Again, we are also hearing from our customers that company purpose and culture may define the timescales in addition to government policy.

The third segment may or may not return based on organizational and employee preference and policy. It’s already been reported in the press that Twitter has offered their employees to remain remote even after the crisis. PwC's COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey found that 68% of CFOs believed that the crisis-driven transition to remote working will make their company better in the long run. Many CHRO’s we speak to are working with their facilities management teams to change hot desking/office areas to team break-out space, envisaging a great number of the workforce will remain working from home post crisis.

For many these choices will depend on employee personal circumstances, productivity and team collaboration experience.

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Step 3: Considering the Unknown or Unseen

Personnel Today found in a recent survey of those who were not able to work from home pre-COVID that 68% felt they were either more productive or equally productive since working from home – particularly significant given the unique challenges many workers face with handling childcare and home-schooling.

A fourth and final segment may exist dependent on the accessibility of a vaccine alongside government and health policy and we realize that some members of our valued workforce may never return to a shared workspace. Those with underlying health conditions that put them at risk or are within the high-risk age demographic may be unwilling or unable to return until either a vaccine or national immunity exists. Speaking to some of our not for profit customers that rely on volunteers, managing the return to work communications with compassion and humanity is a significant priority and consideration.

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