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As an estimated 2.7 billion people impacted by lockdowns and stay-at-home measures begin to make their way back to work places, human resources leaders are facing unprecedented challenges involving safety, organizational restructuring, and turnover.

In addition to priority No. 1 – ensuring employee health and safety – here are five issues leaders are keeping in mind as talent makes their way back to the office or further embraces a remote work lifestyle.

Health and safety protocols:

Keeping the health and safety of employees remains a top priority, so the establishment of in-office protocols is a must. For most, that includes following CDC guidance of face coverings or masks for unvaccinated employees, hand sanitizer stations and frequent hand washing, and a continual reinforcement of social distancing. There’s also employee sick protocols, including staying at home whenever symptoms are present, a 10-day quarantine policy to prevent workplace exposure, and in some cases, daily employee screenings.

Determining the best re-opening strategy:

Aside from employee safety, perhaps the biggest obstacle for companies is determining a re-opening strategy. How and when to start returning back to the office varies greatly with each company. Some have introduced hybrid models, rotating schedules for employees, limited amounts of time in the office or a full-time, in-person model.“Hiring managers need to take stock of their company’s needs, their employee’s needs, and then move forward with that strategy,” said VIA Technical CEO and Owner Natalie Viani. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here, which can make the job of human resources managers either easier or more difficult, depending on how you look at it. The most critical element is finding a strategy that fits your company.”

Employee apprehension and anxiety:

According to Business Insider, while 27% of employees are entirely relieved to return to the office about 25% are entirely anxious about it. Managers can and should gauge how their employees are feeling through surveys and then make decisions based on that, or they can take those concerns on at a case-by-case basis. Either way, it’s important to share mental health resources with employees and contractors, and in some cases, relay benefit information about covering those services to reiterate their importance.

Turnover:

As companies embrace their own unique re-opening strategies, turnover is inevitably a concern. A recent survey by Harvard Business School found that 81% of workers do not want to come back to the office at all OR would prefer a hybrid model. For human resource leaders, that means finding creative ways to keep your teams motivated and engaged during the transition which may be an uphill battle. Part of that means listening and hearing out employee concerns, balancing individual needs with company goals, and engaging employees on finding solutions.Don’t reject the idea that happiness can help ease the burden either. Relationship building – which nearly all agree is better facilitated in person – is an easy way to help ease anxiety. Search out creative ways to facilitate team building and share stories, making sure to inject humor into the day along the way.

Vaccination requirements:

A handful of major corporations, including Facebook and Delta, have announced vaccine requirements for all employees. According to ABC News, business leaders nationwide continue to mull over similar measures although some are hesitant due to potential legal or public relations challenges that may result from it. Either way, the Equal Opportunity Commission has stated that employers may legally require workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus, with the exception of those who have a medical or religious accommodation. Another option may be incentivizing employees for vaccinations, which an increasingly high number of companies are doing. According to the CDC, about 37% of Americans had been fully vaccinated as of May 2021.

Whatever your re-opening strategy may be, it is important to clearly communicate with your employees throughout the process and show constant support for the health and well-being of every individual in your organization.