Why You Need a Return-to-Work Taskforce, Who Should Be On It, and How It Should Work
Everybody loves a do-it-yourself project. You open the box from IKEA, pull out the boards and the weird little hex wrench, and have a quality afternoon.
But if the project you are about to tackle involves getting your company back to work after the Covid-19 shutdown, you should accept the fact that even though you like to do things yourself, you are going to need help from experts and resources who will function as a back-to-work taskforce for your organization.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong Otherwise?
What could possibly go wrong if you wing it and handle all the aspects of getting your company back to work, either by yourself or with a small team of generalists who don’t possess the right knowledge and skills?
We hate to dwell on the negatives, we really do. But here are some of the problems that could be waiting for you . . .
- The employees you are counting on the most could quit because you are not attacking their biggest fears and concerns. You are rushing off in the wrong direction instead.
- People who come back to work could get sick because you have not implemented policies about separating them, testing them, keeping your premises properly sanitized, or you have dropped the ball in other ways.
- You could get sued by employees or cited by government agencies for infractions.
- You could have a difficult time hiring new employees because other companies are doing a better job than you are about starting up again - and people who are looking for jobs would prefer to work for them.
- You could overspend on health care and other benefits because you didn’t correctly anticipate how your workforce was about to change.
- You could spend a lot of money to reopen your office space or acquire new facilities, only to discover that they are going to be half empty when you open up and resume operations.
Okay, Enough Negatives
How can you avoid those problems? The short answer is, you can plan and execute your plans intelligently, with the help of people who have the expertise to help you avoid costly mistakes and get you back to work the right way.
In other words, you will do a lot better if you assemble a taskforce that has the right people on it. Let’s think about who those people should be, and what they should do for you.
An Operations Manager/Planner
This person could be your office manager, if you have a really good one. Or it could be a consultant you bring in on a project basis. You don’t need to pay big money for a consultant, but you do need someone who can ask the critical questions about who your people are, what they do, where they live, where their concerns lie, and what kind of equipment and facilities they need to do their jobs.
Your operations manager/planner should also have the knowledge and skills to survey your employees about when, how, and where they are planning to resume their full work activities.
Finally, this person should have the ability to work interactively with your company leaders to formulate a plan that covers all the details, overlooks nothing critical, and is flexible enough to adapt to changing demands.
By the way, the State of Connecticut just hired a recovery consultant for $2 million. And according to a report on Fox 31 News, a yoga studio in Colorado just hired a company called Covid Consultants to help them comply with mandated health procedures. So consultants are out there. Just be sure they have the expertise that can help you and that they don’t charge rapacious fees.
A Wellness Supervisor
If you have someone on your HR team who is a whiz-bang expert in health care, maybe he or she can take on this responsibility. If you don’t have someone on board like that, you might be able to get a representative from your health plan to come in and lead you through the appropriate steps. Also, check with your state’s board of health or small business commission to see what resources they can offer you.
You don’t want to be getting advice from someone who is just learning about these critical topics now! Before you hire a consultant or another professional to help you set up safeguards for your employees’ health, be sure to ask some hard questions about his or her knowledge with the anti-Covid-19 protocols and procedures that are being mandated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You and your wellness supervisor will need to manage special issues now that will probably include:
- Testing employees as they are arriving at work.
- Implementing required procedures for employees who become sick at work.
- Establishing clear procedures for employees who feel ill, about when to come to work and when to stay home.
An HR Expert or Consultant
One thing is certain. Whatever your HR department did before the pandemic, it is going to be doing different things now.
Perhaps you have just a terrific HR department, staffed by the experts you need to regroup and start up your operations now. If not, consider bringing in an HR consultant, or asking your current outside HR firm if it can provide you with the additional expertise and services you are about to need, in areas that are about to become more critical. Remember that if you will be using more part-time, work-from-home and flextime employees, you will need to consider a wide range of issues that can include:
- Revising, managing and renegotiating pension and retirement plans.
- Reviewing policies regarding vacations, time off, and sick leave.
- Hiring and firing, including establishing legal protections if you will be laying people off.
- Reviewing your company’s insurance and liabilities if some of your employees will soon be working from home, working from remote locations, etc.
- Reviewing how your company will now reimburse or compensate employees for travel, home office equipment and more.
- Finding and delivering counseling and support for employees who are experiencing anxiety or fear about coming back to work.
Tech and IT Staffers
You are going to need smart technicians who can connect the equipment in main and remote locations, make sure it is working, and provide support for it in the time you will be starting up again.
Yes, they will have to do those things. But stop and think about everything additional they will have to do now, depending on your reopening plans, including:
- Reviewing and setting up computers and other equipment that will be used by employees in remote locations.
- Setting up routers, WiFi and other equipment in branch offices you will set up for the first time.
- Establishing procedures for servicing computers and other equipment that is being used by remote employees.
- Reviewing cybersafety protocols to protect your company data.
- Collecting and repurposing computers and other equipment that departing employees will not need any more.
Perhaps you already have some terrific tech and IT people on your staff who can assess your needs in these critical areas and provide the services you need. If not, it is not difficult to find IT and tech consulting companies just about anywhere. But be sure to have discussions with several companies, if you can, before hiring one. Does the company you are considering have expertise in moving businesses from one place to another, in cybersecurity and in other critical areas, for example? Be sure to ask the right questions and make the right hire. The old principal definitely applies - it is less expensive to get things done right the first time than it is to correct problems later on.
A Real Estate Expert, Consultant or Provider
We doubt that everyone on your staff who is returning to work is going to walk back to his or her old work station, sit down and start up as though nothing has changed.
The fact is, things have probably changed dramatically about how and where people will work. You are probably already discussing new options for working that might include:
- Working from remote company locations.
- Working from remote non-company locations.
- Working in a previously used company location that is too big for your needs.
- Working from offices that you will share with your vendors or other companies.
- Working from public locations like libraries, coffee shops, or campuses (these are often short-term solutions).
Clearly, the person who will advise you about real estate needs a range of skills and knowledge that are critical now - a knowledge of factors that can include;
- A reality-based perspective about how many of your employees will work from different locations.
- An expert knowledge of leases and of the real estate options that are available in your area - and at what cost.
- Experience in negotiating business leases and property purchases
- Knowledge about the equipment and technology they will need to perform their jobs.
- An up-to-date grasp of how work from home, work from anywhere, and other new options operate.
- A knowledge of geography, transportation and commuting routes in your region.
Who Are You Going to Hire or Use as Your Real Estate Advisor and Expert?
Well, you have a lot of options. You could hire a real estate agent who specializes in commercial space. (Just be aware and perform your due diligence, because these professionals may want to sell or lease you space in the buildings that are owned by companies that are their clients.)
You can also chase real estate ads and look at available office and other space. (Remember that if you do it yourself you could be missing out on advice that only experts can provide, as we discussed at the start of this article.)
But bear in mind, the individual or company that handles your changing space and real-estate needs right now, as we are recovering, has some very special tasks and responsibilities, that include these:
- Communicating with your people to learn about how and where they want to work during the transitional months ahead.
- Exploring new and innovative solutions that can include identifying available work spaces that your employees can utilize that are close to their homes.
- Negotiating workspace bartering and other cooperative agreements that are outside the sphere of traditional real estate leases or purchases.
Ready to Move Ahead? We Hope You Will Talk to Us!
KettleSpace would like to be part of your return to work taskforce. We are here to provide the expertise and the solutions that will optimize your ability to get back to work in the most efficient ways.
We don’t want you to utilize our solutions, we want you to discover the solutions that will work the best for you.