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Return to Work – The New Normal Post COVID

Updated: Apr 30

Workplace in the New Normal

Returning employees to work during the pandemic Is an unchartered territory. To navigate through this will require flexibility & vigilance on part of the employer and employees. Many organizations we work with are focusing on the following to enable a smooth transition while they return their employees to work. Health and Safety 1) Use technology and data A lot of organizations are forming qualified employee-run covid war rooms to support and enable the return to work to ensure that data is used as a guide, not conspiracy theories. The government of India has created the Aarogya Setu Application which is a mandate for everyone. Whilst some organizations are creating an automatic contact tracing application for their employees, we could further the use of the government authorized application. Organizations Must do a Risk Assessment Risk professionals may not have ever created models for global pandemics this swiftly. A good risk assessment helps organizations manage risk and also prepare for the new normal. PwC has collated a checklist outlining what risk functions can do now. 1) Assess real-estate footprint Tons of money is spent on real estate to open offices. With the new hybrid style of working, organizations are assessing the real estate footprints to optimize cost 2) Plan and execute RTW in a phase-wise manner Employers are introducing a phase-wise return based on sites, job roles, and responsibilities, zip code-based health and safety information. It is important to assess who needs to return to the workplace and what is critical to quality. Here is a list of questions that may help you decide. 3) Covid-specific BCP/DRP While understanding BCP/DRP, 2 decades back one often wondered why we needed something like a disaster recovery plan and when will it come to use. While floods, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, etc. seemed real who would have envisaged a pandemic. The last year and a half have definitely been the right time for all the training that happened in this area. Be ready and be alert is the mantra. Ways of Working

1) Communication strategy

Re-acclimating an onsite workforce presents an enormous change management challenge for executives, who now need a communication strategy that can help employees who are returning to the workplace, as well as those who continue to work remotely, embrace a shared vision of what comes next.

2) Reevaluate performance measures

Times have changed and so are the ways of working, ways of assessing & ways of rewarding. Employers are proactively re-evaluating and realigning business performance, individual performance, and compensation structures that are appropriate for their business.

3) Hybrid working

It may never go back to the old normal. Some employees may not be comfortable coming back to work given the risks of contracting covid. Some employees might have preexisting conditions and they might not want to take the risk of catching an infection. Organizations are being flexible to all these new ways of working.

Focus on People in the New Normal

There is a need to be people-focused while employees return to work. The pandemic has instilled a sense of fear in the people and organizations are realizing that if their safety (Physical, emotional and mental) is not addressed and assured, they may lose their best talent.

1) Training is essential

Onboarding employees to the new normal and expectations from them is imperative. Expect issues to arise and questions to be raised; be ready to address them.

2) Create people-specific empathetic policies and culture.

The Work from Home in the last year-plus has given new responsibilities to the people at home. Organizations are being empathetic towards their new responsibilities and are looking at providing them with alternatives.

3) Organizations need to practice focused listening

This is a byproduct of people-focused policies. Without employee buy-in, even the best-crafted plans are likely to run into trouble. Organizations more than ever are keeping a keen ear and are listening to the information they are receiving about employee wellness, safety, and concerns. Agility is at the core here. The workforce strategy now Is agile, dynamic, and responsive.

By enabling real, two-way communication, leaders may turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to strengthen corporate culture, increase employee engagement and boost productivity and loyalty over the long run.

4) Focus on wellbeing and mental health

Everyone took a hit during the last 1.5 years. In India, in the second wave in April 2021, almost everyone has lost someone they knew. This trauma will take a long time to leave. Organizations should focus on mental health and wellbeing data, either through Employee Assistance Programs, Mental health counselling, and workshops. Once people Return to Work, organizations need to bring life to work.

Is your organization investing in the above-mentioned strategies? How are you contributing towards the entire Return to Work process in your organization? Do drop us a comment. Get in touch with us to train your teams in the right protocols whilst they return to work.


Vikram Badhwar is the Founder of Syngrity, a leadership, communication, and positive psychology coach, and an experiential educator

Malati Vasudeva is a Lead Consultant with Syngrity. She is a Human Resource professional with a global perspective, a keen psychology student & has over 25 years of industry experience in areas of Learning & Talent, Leadership Development, Diversity & Inclusion, and Human Resource Processes.

**this article was first published on

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