Now What?

Now What?

by Teri J. Traaen, Ed.D., D.P.A.
CEO Traaen & Associates, LLC

The Covid-19 Pandemic restrictions are now beginning to lift, ever so slowly, depending upon where you are located and in what industry/sector you are involved in 2020.  Even for our colleagues who are retired/semi-retired or thinking about retiring soon, the uncharted path we have just traveled has impacted them in profound ways.
The key question is "Now.....What"?  What lies ahead?  What are the most pressing issues?  For our country? For the permanently unemployed? For the furloughed?  For the employee who will gladly be returning to work in settings that will open either gradually or fully, but with new, highly defined health and cleanliness guidelines?  For U.S. citizens with chronic health conditions who routinely require very healthy environments in which to live and exist in order to thrive?
We work with clients throughout the United States.  Thus, the impact has varied significantly depending upon the size of the organization, the community and the geographic location of their enterprise.  What has not varied as much is the test of the organization's/workforce resilience.  Without exception the better prepared teams and leaders have withstood, in some cases total shutdowns of their workforce and/or threats of unknown financial reserves and how far their organizations can go with shuttering the entire business/department/division/services.
The most poignant outcome we see is the sense of humility that now frames every client and colleague that we have had the good fortune to work with since 2007.  Hallmarks of these organizations have included increased sensitivity to the needs of every employee - regardless of length of service and scope of responsibilities. This has been coupled with the need to think both short and long term about the extended needs of employees - including multi-generational families with complex financial and health care needs for one, or all of its members.  In addition, we have seen incredible attention to detail for heightening the health integrity levels of the work environment for those who will return eventually to onsite assignments versus those who will now require more and more employees to be home based with telework becoming their new normal in order to support declining resources and the need to rebuild a sustainable business model - in some case almost from the ground up.   
The pandemic has been an equal opportunity warrior against what we had in many ways taken for granted.  Life, privilege and outcomes that we desired in so many aspects of our lives.  Now we will learn to interact with caution, with perhaps greater respect for the unknown and everyone's potential vulnerability.  Now we will have the chance to redesign who we are as a nation and in many situations, who we are as individuals.  We have lost friends.  We have lost family. Are you ready to move forward?  We believe that the next chapter of our lives will be better as a result of what we have both experienced and learned through this Pandemic.

Transitioning to Telework for Good

by Teri J. Traaen, Ed.D., D.P.A.
CEO Traaen & Associates, LLC

We have received multiple requests to help outline key aspects of review for organizations to consider when either partially or permanently moving their workforce to a telework status post Pandemic events.  For many organizations this is perceived as a cost saving measure - eliminating operation costs in part/full for a fixed location.  For other organizations this is viewed as a 'health' related decision allowing for non-contact employee production that in the long run limits the liability of the employer and can be marketed as a strength to a new potential workforce post May 2020. Regardless of the full rationale behind this decision process, we have listed below considerations for every organization that has chosen or is considering to enlist this next step in the return from pre-Pandemic situations.
1. How will your organization decide if all positions/some positions are re-assigned to a telework status?  Who will be involved in the decision making process?  Why have you chosen these representatives of the organization to contribute to the decision process?  How has this decision process been communicated?

2. What are the actual steps for transitioning positions?  Who will control all matter of technology for establishing at home work stations/work locations?  What resources are available to insure equity of training/support for all positions that are transitioned to this type of assignment?

3. How will confidentiality of organizational data be ensured when at home locations are partially/fully operational?  In addition to signing telework agreements, how will audits of technology utilization be administered?  How will these expectations be consistently communicated beginning with recruiting processes and continuing through long term employee relationships? Will there be any anticipated exceptions to technology auditing process?  

4. Are all current organizational leaders including front line Supervisors fully prepared to lead from a teleworking position?  If not, what is the plan for those who need additional advanced leadership training to fulfill the expectations of the organization?  


5. How will the organization's performance management system support workforce telework assignments?  Is it fully developed and used consistently by all levels of the organization? 


6. Will there be an option for a telework re-assignment to an on-site location if an employee has a current home environment that is not-conducive to at home work (i.e., multi-generations within one household/no independent and/or quiet location in which to work uninterrupted; no childcare support outside of the home environment)?  Will some roles be conducive to this outcome while others will not?  If so, what rationale will be used as the method for explaining a denial of a request for some of the requests that may be received? 


7. How or will the movement to telework assignments alter the organization's classification and compensation structure?  If yes, why?  If not, why not? 


8. Will the use of telework/at home assignments be viewed by potential employees as less desirable in terms of contributing to career advancement both within the organization as well as when they are seeking next employment in another work setting? 


9. Is a risk management service center part of the existing organization?  If not, how will you mitigate potential liability issues as the organization evolves toward more off-site employment options?


10. Is this a test process for your organization?  Or are you fully committed to telework assignments for designated assignments from this point forward?  How will you handle unexpected outcomes once you have taken this path toward workforce alignment?





Mental Health and the Return to Work
by Sarah Stewart, M.A.

As states start to relax lockdown measures and organizations take tentative steps toward getting back to a new version of normal, leaders will need to collaborate to re-open in a way that promotes the health and safety of employees and the public. One important consideration for employers will be the need for a strong framework to support their employee's mental health during a time of considerable fear, stress, and anxiety for many.  
Managers often feel they lack the confidence to have sensitive discussions around mental health. There is a tendency to signpost employees to HR, or the organization's EAP provider rather than discuss issues directly with the employee. Similarly, many managers are not confident in spotting warning signs of mental ill health, even when they are often the best placed to spot early warning signs, or the first port of call for employees struggling with issues. 
How can HR support an organization in prioritizing mental well-being during this return-to-work transition period? Below are just a few steps HR can consider when partnering with leaders to ensure a People First approach to their organization's next steps. 
  • Communicate clearly and regularly about your organization's plans to return to 'normal' and provide employees with an opportunity to discuss and have input on decisions. Employees must understand the measures being taken and perceive them as safe in order for them to be effective. Remember, an organization may be open for business but if employees are unwilling to return to work or are worried about their personal safety it will be a challenge to return to anywhere near 'business as usual'.
  • The experience of returning to work and feeling safe and supported - or not - will have a direct impact on productivity and engagement. HR can support managers in effective communication and managing 'moments that matter' such as the employee's first day back.
  • Consider how external factors might continue to have an impact on the employee experience. Having to take public transport, reduced or non-existent childcare, and continued disruptions in daily life are likely to impact an employee's engagement and productivity, as well as their mental health. Ensure your managers are equipped to respond to these issues fairly and consistently and are aware of what options are available, and what approvals, if any, are required.
  • Support and train managers so they feel equipped to identify early warning signs and to have sensitive and supportive discussions with staff.
  • Encourage employees to practice self-care. Group challenges such as a team based 'step challenge' can encourage participation and create some friendly competition!

Sarah Stewart, M.A.
U.K. based service provider for Traaen & Associates LLC

Key Professional Development Events

SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition - The World We Shape  
San Diego, CA
June 28 - July 01, 2020
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Baltimore, MD
September 13-16, 2020

September 18-22, 2021

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