July 27, 2020

How to return to work after confinement

As each region in the different countries begins to ease the containment measures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, companies and workers are facing a never-before-experienced return to work situation, much more radical than what happens to us when we're back at work after the holidays.

HR departments face the challenge of being up to the task, getting very well informed to compile the best practices that are being carried out and applying them, adapting them to the reality of each business.

Given the uncertainty that surrounds this situation, there is only one certainty: things will not be the same as before. Until a vaccine or treatment is capable of neutralizing contagion against the dangerous virus, certain guidelines must be followed to ensure the safety of employees and customers.

Multiple aspects will need to be considered to keep operations running while minimizing the risk to employee health:

1. New Safety and Hygiene policies:

Social distancing, group work logs for contact tracing, new protocols for deep cleaning and short: physical and mental health precautions

This includes changes in working hours to match the fewest number of people at the same time or modifications in the design of work spaces, new rules for the use of closed spaces such as elevators or rooms so that physical safety distances can be maintained.

The company must be very clear and have answers to questions such as:
Should I return if I am at risk of being infected? Or if I have been in contact with someone positive? Can I or should I travel if the job requires it? What should I do if someone has symptoms?

All security policies that are implemented must, at a minimum, comply with the regulations of each region or, if possible, even increase said measures.

(The challenge begins...and we only just mentioned the first point!).

2. Communication:

The communication strategy must be transversal to all initiatives aimed at returning to the workplace. Uncertainty is fought with transparency. The decisions made by companies will not be guaranteed success because no one knows for sure what will happen to the disease or the economy, but it is important that whatever they are, they are shared so that the whole team knows where we are going to direct our efforts.

We must be able to translate what the purpose is that we all share and work to align it with the concerns of each of the team members.

3. Get Productivity Back:

People are not machines that accelerate from 0 to 100 in a few seconds. It is important that we are flexible the first few weeks. It is also necessary for employees to know what are their new objectives in the short, medium and long term and have feedback on their fulfillment. That will allow them to focus.

HR departments, together with the Leaders of the different areas, must ensure that employees understand what is being asked of them and what steps the company is taking to protect their health and job stability in the medium and long term.

4. Maintain telecommuting:

As far as possible, those companies whose professionals can carry out their tasks from home without complications should have the possibility of doing so.

Companies that everyone knows such as Twitter or Facebook have already announced permanent teleworking measures as we can read here and here. After them, many more will come. The concept of working in the office will change forever after this unexpected turn of events.

Similarly, there may be people who don't have a conducive environment at home and feel better coming back to the office, so think about them too and promote the individual responsibility of each one to do their job in the conditions that are most appropriate for them.

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5. Share Ideas:

Our teams are a more valuable source of ideas than we sometimes imagine. When we give them a voice, in addition to stimulating cohesion and commitment, we are able to have a first-hand vision of the challenges and, on many occasions, of creative solutions. that they offer us. Launch a internal questionnaire to stimulate our collective intelligence might be a good idea!

In addition, we can also find sources of new ideas externally. Any of the Human Resources Management professionals in essential industries who have had to adapt these and other measures improvisedly during this time will surely be delighted to share their successes and mistakes to help others. How about contacting some on Linkedin so they can give us their advice?

6. Trust:

Many companies during this time have already been working on building trust, communicating to all their teams for each new situation, carrying out surveys virtual climate, occupational health questionnaires or any other process that allows for honest and transparent feedback, favoring contact during the months of home office.

But others may have to restore trust from scratch or collect the necessary information for decision-making with a view to returning to full activity. In these cases, a recommendation made by some government authorities would be to send an internal questionnaire to all employees at least 3 days before their return to find out how each person on our team is doing or to find out what particular needs they have so that the company can provide the information you need. In addition, we can take advantage of that communication input with our team so that everyone is informed of the plans for their return.

7. New approaches to leadership:

If this health crisis has taught us anything, it is the radically different effect caused by those leaders who have remained distant from those who have put all their efforts into being empathetic, in managing with intelligence its most human side.

If we foster real and two-way communication by providing feedback tools to teams, leaders can turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to strengthen corporate culture, increase employee productivity and, of course, engagement.

8. Innovation:

Surviving the unexpected should open our minds and make us recover our ability to surprise ourselves, learn and improve ourselves. They say that need is the main stimulus to innovate and that it encourages us to face situations creatively.

The new times we live in make us question the certainties that we took for granted a few months ago and it is now when we must encourage new ideas to emerge in our companies to provide better customer service or even to reorient the business strategy towards services. that they will be more in demand.

Right now, innovation is a process that has to happen from the inside out. There will be no time to wait and see what others do, the most innovative organization in its internal management and in its relationship with the market will be the one that occupies the most advantageous position.

9. Do not decapitalize the company of its talent:

The company must not decapitalize the talent that has taken so much work to obtain, train and integrate into the corporate culture. Also, no plan to get back to normal will succeed without your team. When the economic situation improves, the organizations that have been better prepared will occupy more advantageous positions.

If there is no other remedy for the survival of the company, there are many ways to carry out radical decisions such as dismissal, for example: the Outplacement technique. It's about helping the people you have to get rid of find a new job with another organization based on their skills and abilities, rather than simply terminating their employment contracts. HR professionals are great career coaches who must be present throughout the entire life cycle of an employee: from the recruitment process to the end of their contract . A similar current case is found when Brian Chescky, CEO of Airbnb, shared a repository called "Talent Directory" with the professional profiles that the company had to do without and which already has more than 250,000 visits.

10. Digitize, automate processes:

Virtually none of us can predict what they call the “New Normal” but there is one clear point about it: the new normal will be digital.

It is necessary to take advantage of the new digital technologies available so that human and technological capacities reinforce each other and promote a more flexible, adaptive, data-based organization whose main processes can be executed in real time, saving thousands of hours in bureaucratic tasks that do not contribute value.


The new normal is going to bring with it (as well as the renaissance of term coined by McKinsey executive Ian Davis in 2009) unprecedented paradigms that are not normal for all of us. For this reason, we must prepare ourselves and train our skills to face change, uncertainty, orient ourselves towards the constant search for new work, relationship and business models.

To approach it in a practical way, it can help us to make a checklist like is prepared by PWC, or guides such as EU-OSHA (European Union Information Agency for Safety and Health at Work), ILO (International Labor Organization) or this another from CIPD on aspects to take into account to be better prepared for challenges and to ensure that we do everything in our power, leaving as little room as possible for improvisation.

Flexibility, honest communication, and adherence to best practices will help ease the transition as employees adjust to "new now" in the office.