July 23, 2021
When COVID-19 hit last year and employees were forced to work from home, employers quickly learned that their staff could continue to be productive even when they weren’t sitting in the same office. Now, companies are faced with the decision of re-entry, hybrid work and the continued uncertainty of COVID-19.
But where does that leave mid-sized companies and startups?
Meet Kate Velasquez, Director of Human Resources at ASG. Kate is in charge of leading, developing and coordinating the policies and activities of the HR team at ASG.
Kate and her team also oversee all aspects of HR across the three core components of our business: diligence, onboarding and the operating of our companies. They partner closely with ASG’s operating CEOs, HR and Finance teams to build HR infrastructure that ensures we are running efficient and compliant teams, and help design initiatives that support a culture of PeopleFirst.
ASG companies vary in size, culture and complexity - we asked Kate how she and her team approached supporting ASG and its operating companies in navigating re-entry to the office.
One of the bigger challenges is and will continue to be the uncertainty of COVID-19, and the lack of clarity on when the right time to bring people back is. In my opinion, there isn’t a perfect time, and organizations need to get comfortable with risk management based on their headcount, location and potential for exposure to COVID-19.
Secondly, the inconsistencies of local, state and federal mandates for employers and their employees makes compliance challenging and cumbersome, as you need to juggle multiple balls at the same time.
Lastly, balancing the needs of individual employees against the needs/desires of a company to be in person (or not) is real, especially for the ASG community which prides itself on putting people first. Well-intentioned flexibility can backfire if you haven’t fully thought through where you need people to net-out long term, and it can be difficult to unwind.
Open and transparent two-way communication with employees is the best thing organizations can do to ensure no stone is left unturned. When in doubt, over communicating is far better than under communicating. Some tips include:
For HR leaders, work with trusted partners on how to apply nebulous regulations/mandates (and frequent changes) to your specific business, and distill things down into realistic ways of operating.
Additionally, use your network and source ideas/best practices from others. We’re lucky to have this built into the way we do business at ASG, and it’s a huge win. If you need help, check out some online resources as well.
Last, just doing the thing! There is no perfect time. Make a plan, execute it, and acknowledge that it will adjust/evolve over time (like COVID). As the common phrase suggests: plan for the best, and prepare for the worst.
Before answering any questions, reflect on learnings from the past year - what went well, and what didn’t go well? Involve employees in these conversations through 1:1s and source feedback (through tools like Culture Amp or a Google Form). Also, decide and ensure if having a distributed workforce is sustainable for your business (from payroll/tax compliance to the potential culture and innovation impact).
Here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself and the leadership team:
While there may be more nuanced questions that come from the feedback you gathered, this is a good start in pointing you towards the right direction.
Put a plan in place that addresses all potential exposures to COVID-19, train employees and management and keep the plan current over time. Stay informed on the latest guidelines for employers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and workplace safety requirements from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and local ordinances/branches. The CDC and SHRM have great checklists you can easily amend to be applicable to the nature of your business.
Lastly, recommend vaccines and provide educational resources from legitimate sources often to inform employees about vaccines and COVID-19. Here are some great resources from SHRM and the World Health Organization (WHO) you can start with.