500-Day Journey to the New Normal

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I hope all of you are safe and secure, wherever you are working or sheltering. With our persistent joint efforts and with all the help we can get, we will get through the coronavirus crisis. When will America’s workplaces return to normal?

My short answer is, we will never return to the normal we remember, but with a lot of effort, we should reach a new stasis in 2022. One thing is certain: The workplace in 2022 will look far different than it did a few months ago.

Over the next 18 immensely important months, all of us will face short-term crises that will lead us to the new employment reality. Of course, we need to have a strategy to take us through the next year and a half, but we also need a vision of where we hope to be heading

‘The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Awry’

That axiom by Scottish poet Robert Burns has never rung truer. We’ve all sat through dozens of long-range planning programs and disaster preparedness sessions without ever coming close to imagining the circumstances we’re seeing today. We’ve endured programs in which we were asked to anticipate and train for disruptive technologies and the new skill sets some employees would need, but nothing approaching the current situation was ever put on the board.

Had anyone suggested a hypothetical training session on what to do if every employee was considered a potential carrier of a fatal contagion and most of America’s workforce was ordered to shelter at home, most businesses were ordered to lock down, and the unemployment rate increased tenfold over the course of a month, nobody would have attended the program. So none of us was prepared for this. Still, employers across the country are rising to the many challenges we’re now facing.

First, Focus on the Immediate Issues

The current state and county limits on business operations and employee attendance at the worksite will determine our actions for the next month or so, dictated by public health needs. Hopefully, you’ve established remote work setups for employees who can perform their jobs at home.

Essential businesses that remain open should have implemented and posted procedures for hand washing and sanitizing, wearing masks, and social distancing for employees who are still coming to the worksite as well as provided sufficient space, hand-washing stations, and supplies.

Benefit policies and procedures should be designed to support operations while maximizing the benefits to which employees and former employees may be entitled. We’ll likely remain in this crisis period for the next 2 months.

We won’t stay in crisis mode past June—employees and businesses cannot stay dormant and forgo income forever. But California and many of its counties, along with most of the nation, won’t risk a return to the trends and patterns of contagion we saw last month; the spread of coronavirus will return with ferocity unless significant public and workplace restrictions remain in place. So, as we reopen commerce, we’ll be subject to employment rules and norms quite different from those under which we’ve lived for decades.

Necessity will overtake some employment rules for at least a while. Despite 50 years of age discrimination law, expect rules that keep older workers at home while younger employees report to work. And despite a half century of disability law, expect rules allowing employers to take employees’ temperatures before permitting them to report to work, prioritize the hiring of people who have the COVID-19 antibody, and bar employees from the workplace depending on where they’ve traveled or whom they’ve spent time with.

The disability law principle that employees don’t have a right to know anything about coworkers’ medical circumstances or accommodations will likely be overridden by the doctrine of immediate threat because everybody will want to know the infection status of everyone else at the jobsite. Read more here…

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Source: HR Daily Advisor

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