Returning to Work: 3 Ways to Prepare

May 21, 2020

As the world steps out of survival mode, here are three ways to prepare to return to work in the aftermath of COVID-19.

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Take a minute to think about the past few weeks. In the blink of an eye, you checked boxes on logistical tasks, such as obtaining equipment, VPN access, and training to large groups of people, quickly. And, you ticked off the less obvious ones, such as adjusting expectations, shifting workloads, and coaching on how to manage a remote workforce. You rolled up your sleeves and dove into understanding all the new legislation the government was pumping out at warp speed. As an HR leader, you have spent so much time helping your organization respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. And once the dust settles, the world as we know it may look a little different, and a “return to normal” will likely be slow and phased. With many businesses forced to close their doors temporarily (or indefinitely), getting out of crisis mode and finding a new “normal” will be top of mind for business leaders. It also creates an opportunity for HR leaders to once again step forward with ideas to help shape what's next for their business.

Here are three key areas to consider as you look forward to life after COVID-19:

  1. Employee Engagement – With so many employees remote, and many for the first time, employee engagement and working relationships have likely been disrupted. Spend time to help everyone reconnect after the physical distance apart. Give employees ways to bond, even if coming into the office isn’t an immediate option. Using tools like Community and Impressions can be a great way to do that. Even as social distancing lifts, employees can continue connect with each other safely through mobile devices and celebrate one another both virtually and in offices.

Communicate Transparently and Often

Continue to share transparent communications from leadership regularly. Change is a process, not an event. Your employees and their families will continue to be impacted. Check on your people individually and as a group with surveys or through Community posts and polls to keep a pulse on how people are feeling. While GT Midwest worked quickly to get their staff the ability to do their jobs from home, HR Manager Amanda Kreutzer seized the opportunity to launch Community to unite with her now separated workforce.

A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way

As people trickle back into work spaces, the adjustment back is just as important as the shift to remote. Impressions can be a fun way to engage and motivate teams – getting them excited for the future while also recognizing the rockstars who help others along the way. A little appreciation and gratitude can go a long way. “Paylocity’s peer recognition tool is integral to our recognition program. Employees can nominate colleagues all right from the Paylocity portal. It has made a huge contribution to nurturing our positive work environment,” says HR Director Sharon Decato, Stonewall Kitchen. Remind leaders that engagement will continue to be important, and that a shift back to "normal" will likely be different this time around. Providing real-time feedback on positive efforts and contributions will help keep people's minds and hearts engaged through a tricky time.

  1. Recruitment/Onboarding – The pandemic shuttered many business’ doors, and jobless claims exceeded 20 million in the span of four weeks. Businesses that were able to stay open faced layoffs and furloughs, and even more stable industries saw slowing recruitment and new hire onboarding. Now as we all begin to put the pieces back together, recruiting will be important and likely very different than in the past. Finding the right candidate in a sea of resumes will be challenging. Automating aspects of the recruiting process, like triggering communication to non-qualified candidates, will be really important for HR leaders. HR Systems and Risk Specialist Gavin Watson, YMCA, says, “Having everything in one source has been a game changer. The Recruiting tool is really nice. We used to do every single offer letter manually and that was impossible to keep up with.” Remote recruiting and virtual job fairs may be the new norm as we look to mitigate risk moving forward. says everything flows digitally from Recruiting into Onboarding through one system - no pen or paper involved. This sort of automation will save valuable time and resources as everyone works to get back to normal. Sharon from Stonewall Kitchen estimates that Paylocity Onboarding alone has saved her department approximately 60 hours per week.
  2. Learning and Professional Development – Did you know that 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn? Many companies are focused on other aspects of overall culture, but maintaining employee engagement is as important as filling any skills gaps that layoffs may have left. Businesses may not be able to hire as quickly as they would like due to the economic slowdown, so adding new talent will not be a short-term option for many. While the past couple of months have felt like survival mode, employees will look to career development as they get back into the swing of their day-to-day. Investment in their careers can also give employees confidence in your company and in their career path. Learning doesn’t have to be top down. In fact, studies show 55% of employees prefer to turn to their peers first. Peer-to-peer learning taps into expertise that already exists within your organization. From learning lunches, to mentoring, to formalized recorded trainings, taking advantage of peer-to-peer learning is not only cost effective, it is down-right effective.


COVID-19 taught us that even while we’re apart, we can remain close together. As social distancing requirements start to lift and we step out of survival mode, we can take steps to stay connected to our teams, begin welcoming people - both old and new - into our businesses, and continue to invest in their well being and development. For more details on the Democratization of Learning and the benefits of peer-to-peer learning, check out our eBook.


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