The new norm in HR: Top 5 questions managers have in the current age of COVID

Business continuity and risk mitigation have always been an element of any strong strategic plan.

In 2020 it is more relevant than ever. In just a matter of 12 short weeks, “back to work” is anything but back to normal. Now more than ever leadership is being challenged with questions where the answers rely heavily on risk tolerance and critical thinking.

In a recent poll, employers here in Alaska provided feedback of their concerns and we have summarized below:

1. Half of my staff wants to work from home, what happens if I “make” them come back to work?

2. If an employee is provided a workstation to work from home and gets carpal tunnel, is that grounds for a worker’s compensation claim?

3. How do I gauge and monitor progress?

4. What about overtime? Can I still require “normal” workdays if an employee is working off-site?

5. How do I respond to an employee who goes on vacation, travels, or has family in town from out of state? Can I require a quarantine, and do I have to cover the salary if I do?

The short answer to all these questions is: it depends. In our research we have found similar concerns even prior to COVID-19; the simple truth is that all the best resources and experts do not have black and white answers that can be applied in an industry agnostic manner. However, we can offer some best business practices that are already proving successful during this uncertain time.

Here is your list of what is within your control:

If the employee concerns can be met with some accommodation, while understanding job roles and responsibilities, then, by all means, take a step in that direction. Making accommodations that are fair to all employees are policies, not accommodations. So first ask yourself; can this modification to the work schedule (or other change) benefit the organization by majority? Then review workflows and required resources, perhaps, we can relieve other areas of resource allocation.

Second, regardless of the industry, as leaders, we must keep our employees as safe as reasonably possible. In the context of a virus that can be difficult, however as leaders and managers we should be developing a safety and response plan that is reasonably monitored and easily executed in the event of a COVID-19 report.

Establishing a policy that allows employees to continue working from home after vacation, travel, or potential exposure maintains productivity and ensures the safety of other employees.

Finally, there very best thing you can do to relieve angst and apply risk mitigation is to open communication with your staff. Allow them to voice frustrations, and work through those concerns with the job requirements as a focal point. Making accommodations should be a win-win for the organization and employees to ensure business continuity. Keeping staff employed and engaged depends on it.


Paula Bradison is the President of Alaska Executive Search and Bradison Management Group

10/07/2020 - 9:14am