HR Management & Compliance

Keep Conversation Going With Employees as They Return to In-Person Work

It was only a year ago that work-from-home became the norm in most of our households. Overnight, employers and employees were forced to adjust the way they live and work, while following COVID-19 guidelines. Just when it seemed routines were established, a new school year began. And it left employees with more questions than answers: How long will the uncertainty last? When will I return to work? Will my children return to school? How will I set-up my Zoom call while overseeing my child on Zoom? Now that most states have withdrawn their pandemic orders, the question isn’t if we will return to the office, but rather when the return will occur. Yet again, change will be thrust upon both employers and employees.

Employees Balancing Work and Childcare

It would be remiss to state that childcare doesn’t play a significant role in the lives of your employees. As companies ask their employees to return to the office, schools continue to implement myriad learning options. This includes the continuation of virtual learning, traditional in-person, and hybrid programs, which allow parents to choose one or the other.

Parents and caregivers now face unprecedented post-pandemic challenges in balancing family and work responsibilities. You need to consider the challenges your employees face on a day-to-day basis. Identifying the challenges allows you the opportunity to offer flexible solutions. This will assist in retaining employees while meeting the company’s needs.

Investing in Your Employees

Finding the right employee isn’t about attracting the best candidate. It’s about the long-term investment in the person.

Investing in an employee doesn’t end at training. It continues every day as she builds knowledge and experience in her position. There’s value to retaining current employees. While it may not be realistic to ask an employer to create a customized plan that meets both its and the employee’s needs, it may be necessary to create general guidelines for your business.

The first step is to identify your business’s needs. What does the company need to maintain productivity? What are your “must haves”?

The second step is to ask your employees what they need. You aren’t permitted to ask specific questions about their or their family’s health. You should ask, however, whether they are receiving the appropriate support to perform their job duties.

Finally, how can you adapt to allow an employee to maintain her duties and workplace responsibilities while also addressing childcare needs? The pandemic has forced employees to try to find a balance between occupational responsibilities and childcare. You should be cognizant of the issues your employees face.

The questions will open the conversations and allow both you and your employees to address the struggle head on. By taking a proactive approach, you can maintain your business while addressing your employees’ needs.

Bottom Line

The questions posed here are a starting point. Each employer must determine the best way to move forward. Keep in mind social media is prevalent, so consider your policies and the type of impression you wish to establish. Consider the value of maintaining your workforce by adapting to the postpandemic world.

Elizabeth R. Lanzhammer is an attorney with Axley Brynelson, LLP, in Madison, Wisconsin. She can be reached at elanzhammer@axley.com.