HR Must Adapt to Support a New Normal in the Office

By Michael Klazema on 8/6/2020

As workplaces around the world grapple with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, many have begun the hard work of thinking about what comes next. As businesses must still make progress in establishing and defending the new normal, they need a better way to mitigate the risks of viral spread without operating at a dramatically reduced capacity. For human resources departments, making such plans will prove a challenging task. 

HR teams already invest time into crucial measures to prevent risks to staff, the public, and their business’s reputation and bottom line. These measures include carefully reviewing applicant credentials and using background checks thoughtfully and consistently. What are some of the ways that these teams must now adapt further for safety?

Preparing for a Blended WFH and Office Environment

The crowded office from yesterday is unlikely to make a return soon. Keeping 100% of your staff out of the office may work for some businesses, but not for most. In the future, companies are more likely to set rotating schedules that bring workers into the office some days and keep them home for others. 

As more than a potential strategy for mitigating in-office spread, blending your teams in this way may contribute to lower office costs. Downsizing to a smaller space could save room in the budget without sacrificing the productivity of the team—but the transition is easier said than done. HR will need to ensure robust systems for secure remote employee access. 

Monitoring Employee Health for Warning Signs

Completely eliminating the threat posed by the virus that causes COVID-19 is unlikely, even when effective vaccines are widely available. In the short-term, many businesses need to engage in continuous health monitoring to ensure that employees do not turn the workplace into the center of an outbreak. Such monitoring typically takes the form of periodic temperature checks and strict orders to avoid the workplace with any signs of illness.

Very large companies may explore more extreme solutions, such as systems designed to automatically detect abnormally high body temperatures indicative of fever. The average office will need to develop strategies that work for their own circumstances. In doing so, it is crucial for them to take steps to conduct monitoring in a manner that is non-discriminatory and equally applied across the business. Compliance issues surrounding the collection of medical information will require attention, too. 

Change the Physical Office Space

Though some businesses have fully transitioned to working from home, many others still require a presence in the office. Altering the arrangement of workspaces and creating safer, socially distanced open work areas will likely prove preferable to traditional desk arrangements. 

Reduce or eliminate individual desk assignments and consider switching to a "hot desking" arrangement paired with routine sanitation. When the employees who do come into work can grab whichever workstation suits their needs for the day, you foster collaboration without creating undue risk. 

Rethink the Way HR Builds Teams

While key procedures have always been a part of in-office safety, every business will now need to determine an effective way to operate with new precautions in mind as the response to COVID-19 evolves. HR must carefully assess the risks, develop smart and thorough procedures, and ensure that they are implemented fully.

Such strong steps will pave the way to a "new normal" that is acceptable to everyone—but in the process of evolving your workplace to fight COVID-19, don’t forget to reinforce the fundamental steps that lead to smarter, safer, and lower-risk hires. Audit your current background check policies and secure fresh, expedient vetting solutions from

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