No event has impacted the economy as abruptly and with such velocity as the COVID-19 pandemic, an occurrence that altered the way in which we live and work virtually overnight. In the span of a mere eight weeks, unemployment shot from under 4% to nearly 15%. In fact, some economists claim that, due to misclassifications and discouraged workers who quit looking for jobs, the unemployment number was much higher, a statistic comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
As businesses continue to grapple with the ongoing uncertainty and myriad of challenges presented by the pandemic, it’s no wonder that Human Resources (HR) has stepped onto the center stage. Layoffs, furloughs, remote work, concerns over returning to worksites, changing legislation, outdated policies and technologies – and let’s not forget health and safety – are some of the many areas that business leaders, HR departments and employees have had to adapt to all at once.
Perhaps the largest HR initiative in history has been the massive shift from offices to a largely remote workforce. The challenges are many – adequate technology and cyber security; the loss of in-person collaboration and connection; managing employee productivity; and the blurred lines between home and work. The good news is that employers are learning that when structured properly, the benefits of the “new office normal” are many, including the elimination of stressful, time-consuming commutes, flexibility to manage both home and work demands, and reduced office/overhead costs. The realization for many organizations is that “face-time” doesn’t always equate to production.
Leaves of absence, furloughs, layoffs, infectious disease control plans, and telecommuting are just a shortlist of employment policies and legislative changes that employers have been forced to manage due to the pandemic. Employee handbooks are more critical now than ever to ensure that employees are informed of requisite state/federal laws and company policies. Technology allows for a much easier process of designing, developing, communicating, updating and distributing company handbooks. PDFs make pertinent information simpler to access than paper-based cumbersome handbooks.