Hopeful Family-Friendly Movies Should Make Us Think About a Post-COVID Workplace

In the midst of today’s climate, it somehow seems trivial to write about “entertainment” and how it pertains to the world of HR and employers. After all, countless individuals and families in this country are being affected by COVID-19, including those brave men and women who are on the front lines and continue to provide essential medical services during this pandemic. Those stories are being written, should be read, and I presume are being read by a large number of people, including myself. However, this is a blog entitled “EntertainHR,” and our goal is to provide insights and guidance to employers and HR professionals. So that’s what I hope to do here. And quite frankly, “hope” is the starting point for this particular blog entry.

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I started thinking about “hope” when looking at this situation through the eyes of my two eldest children, boys aged 6 and 8. Adults during this pandemic are dealing with a wide range of responsibilities and hurdles, whether it’s the aforementioned medical professionals risking their lives, other workers providing essential grocery and other retail services, working remotely from home, home-schooling children, dealing with a furlough or termination of their job, or any combination of the foregoing.

It’s likely that most adults during this time are just trying to keep themselves and their families safe and doing whatever they can to get through this situation.

Children are a bit different. My boys are old enough to know what’s going on but young enough to immediately think about their future hopes and goals. They talk about when they are going back to school, when sports will start, and when they’ll get to play with their friends. More than that, not only do they recount things they’ll do in the future when this is all over, but they also talk about what they can do now to prepare for it.

By way of example, my oldest said he wants to try pitching when Little League starts up again and has been asking that I take him outside when I’m not working for some practice. My other son says he now wants to learn how to ride a bike (after refusing to do so for years due to his love of his scooter) and insists I teach him now so that he can show off once he gets to hang out with his friends again.

Examples of Hope in Entertainment

This mentality is, not surprisingly, similarly prevalent in the entertainment they consume. We’ve been letting them watch various family-friendly movies at night or while my wife and I are working during the day. Some recent examples are The Goonies, Rookie of the Year, The Mighty Ducks, Wall-E, and Onward.

All these movies, which are geared toward kids, are essentially about overcoming obstacles; the “hope” needed to do so; and, of course, the happy ending that results. It’s no wonder they look forward to the day when things get back to normal and believe in their minds the day will surely come.

Preparing for After the Crisis

Of course, we as adults don’t necessarily have that luxury, as part of our DNA is to worry about what to do now and how to survive now. But when time permits, we should think about the future if possible, even in these trying times. There have been numerous articles and guidance written about how employers can manage this crisis, as well as synopses about the numerous federal and state laws that have been passed during this pandemic.

So I’m not going there. And I know that most of you are just trying to figure out how to manage the next coming weeks/months, and that is certainly the top priority.

However, as my sons know, it is never too early to start thinking about the future and how to prepare for it now. The reality is that someday in the future, for most employers, the workplace will get back to “normal.” So if you have a moment, employers and HR professionals should consider what could be the most difficult hurdles and issues they may have to deal with when this does happen.

Unduly Burdensome Argument for Remote Work Out the Window?

For example, if you’re currently permitting some or most of your workforce to work remotely, either due to a legal obligation under state law or simply as an accommodation due to the current climate, what happens after things become normal and someone seeks to work remotely due to a disability?

Can you credibly argue that permitting remote work for that position is unduly burdensome to the company or doesn’t allow the employee to fulfill the essential functions of his or her role and note that this remote work was solely permitted due to the unique circumstances of a worldwide pandemic? Or will that employee be able to prove that he or she did everything he or she would normally do by working remotely and thus should be permitted to do so again due to a disability? Should you consider updating job descriptions and duties where applicable as a result?

Unused Sick Leave and FMLA for Rehired Employees

What about employees who were terminated and then rehired once things got better? Does state or local law require you to reinstate their full unused bank of paid sick leave, vacation, and/or paid time off from before the termination? What about employees who are taking Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) leave and then before year end are confused as to why they can’t take FMLA for a serious health condition due to exhaustion of their leave entitlement?

Are you ensuring that your records clearly track applicable leaves of absence and that your HR department is aware of how to communicate the interplay between the EFMLA and FMLA? Have you taken stock of the biggest issues your specific company has faced during this situation and determined what policies or procedures should be put in place or updated in the event COVID-19 rears its ugly head again in a second wave next winter, as some have suggested could happen?

Final Thoughts

This is just a small sample of items to consider, but there are undoubtedly many more. As stated, I understand this may not be at the top of your priority list at this time, and that is completely understandable. However, it’s never too early to prepare, so just keep that in mind for whenever you have the time to think it over.

Hope is a great thing, and we all hope that we can emerge from this and get back to normal life. But with that hope comes the realization that there will be obstacles we will all need to address in the aftermath of this pandemic.

All things being equal, I’ll take hope, even if it comes with these caveats. Hope gives you purpose for the future and motivation now on how best to tackle that future. So kindly excuse me now that this post is complete. I have to go outside for a bit. After all, I could be training the next Pedro Martinez or Tony Hawk.