The leaders of HR and People teams are an integral part of any organization, and their role in communicating and supporting employees has only become more critical in the recent months. Now, HR leaders are thinking through the steps of reopening offices, preparing for the return of business travel, and caring for the mental health and physical safety of their employees.
Taking stock of the numerous conversations we’ve had in our Office Hours calls and the TripActions Community, we’re reflecting on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Transition Back to Offices
HR leaders are thinking through how and when they’ll reopen offices. We’ve heard leaders of People and HR teams talk about the spirited conversations happening to ensure that plans reflect the best possible course of action for each individual organization.
Most HR leaders are thinking about starting a phased reopening in June or July with expectations to fully return by September. Some have discussed a partial reopening, in which one team returns to the office as a team with a schedule of A and B days, alternating who comes into the office to keep interactions low.
They’re also thinking about new cleaning and sanitation practices that will keep offices as safe as possible. It is of the utmost importance and concern that internal operations are done properly.
One challenge that’s come up for several HR managers is around setting a deadline. Many employees are also parents who are navigating plans for childcare based on summer camps and school. It is best for these employees to have at least a preliminary date in mind that they can organize around. HR leaders are deciding on a date that takes that burden of their team members.
Expectations of what’s available in the office will also shift in the short term. Whereas many offices once offered snacks, drinks and even gyms, these amenities will continue to be paused as offices reopen until safety precautions can be established.
Work From Home Policies
Other HR leaders are questioning to what degree the workforce will return to an office at all. Depending on the industry, some teams have found that they’re able to work just as well from home and are not eager to return to the office full time. HR leaders want to find a balance that gives employees the choice to work from home while still making time for the important in-person connections and conversations that happen in the office.
Executives are also thinking through policies that mandate employees return to offices on a certain date or at a certain cadence or if they will leave it open to the individual. Many have spoken about a long-term flexibility in remote versus office work.
New Hiring Practices
Many companies are still hiring throughout this time and have had to find replacements for the in-person component of the interview. HR leaders have talked about the benefits of a 30-minute coffee chat on Zoom, which gives the candidate and internal advocate a chance for a more relaxed, social interaction. It is important that these teams find a way to connect with interviewees on a more personal level even when hiring remotely.
Engagement with Employees
Finding the right way to engage and support employees has never been more important. Last month it was critical to over-communicate in the response to sudden and numerous changes. Now, some employees are feeling the effects of back-to-back video conferences and being overwhelmed in messaging. HR teams are thinking about the best ways to get the information to employees while still giving them space to work and take time off.
While health and wellness has become an important part of office culture, HR teams are also thinking through creative new ways to support their employees. Many people - especially top performers - will insist that they are okay without revealing the full impact that certain changes or stresses might have had on their work experience. Introducing optional meetings that provide tools and resources is important in bolstering the resilience of teams.
That’s why we’ve hosted our Office Hours video conference calls throughout the past 2 months: To talk through these challenges and ask questions in a private space with colleagues in similar roles.
To learn more, subscribe to Open for Business: A Corporate T&E Podcast Powered by TripActions here. Our next episode, airing Tuesday, May 5, will discuss HR’s elevated role in business travel and how HR leaders are navigating this time.