How HR Pros Are Preparing for the Post-Pandemic Future of Work


As the ongoing pandemic continues to disrupt the way we live and work, HR practitioners are on the frontlines of preparing organizations to return to the office under a new mode of working. To better understand how leaders have managed these changes, Ultimate Software surveyed 1,000 organizations across the United States on the steps they are taking to help their businesses adjust, adapt and re-emerge better than before, writes Cecile Alper-Leroux, VP of product and innovation at Ultimate Software.

COVID-19 has presented new challenges and opportunities that have shaped the future of work forever, with a particularly rapid shift in organizational attitudes toward remote-work arrangements on a long-term basis. However, as local stay-at-home restrictions begin to lift, leaders faced with the choice to reopen physical operating facilities are taking new precautions to address the ongoing COVID-19 situation, while also managing the increased demand for flexible benefits and policies. A recent pulse surveyOpens a new window of nearly 1,000 Ultimate Software customers across industries like manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and non-profit revealed insights into these tactical reopening plans, the biggest challenges for HR pros, and advice for moving forward.

Increased Safety Precautions in the Office

HR leaders have always been committed to supporting employees’ well-being, and that extends to creating a safe and comfortable working environment both in the office and virtually. In terms of adapting the physical office space, 87% of survey respondents are increasing the frequency of facility deep-cleanings, and 85% are distributing masks and/or gloves to employees as well as rearranging workspaces to allow for social distancing. Other common safety measures for in-office employees include temperature checks and staggered work schedules. Some organizations are using data-reporting technology to track the work status of employees, using key insights to inform their reopening plans.

Remote Work Is Permanent

Beyond physical safety measures, HR is also addressing changes in employee behavior as businesses become more open and adapt to remote work. While many companies were already heading toward a more remote-friendly workplace in 2019 and early 2020, COVID-19 has considerably accelerated this shift. In fact, an overwhelming majority of respondents (78%) indicated that less than 10% of their workforce regularly worked remotely before COVID-19. However, just 36% of respondents expect the same small proportion of employees will work remotely after the crisis has passed. The number of organizations with over half of their employees regularly working remotely has also more than doubled, up from just 5% before COVID-19 to an expected 11% moving forward. Now that more organizations have invested in the technology infrastructure needed to support remote work, and more employees have adjusted to working from home, we’ll likely see the trend continue into 2021 and beyond.

Learn More: 8 Ways AI-Based Process Discovery Helps With Remote WorkOpens a new window

Employee Benefits Are Expanding

While remote work is certainly dominating conversations on what the new normal will look like, HR pros are also evaluating and implementing new benefits offerings to better support employees through the unique challenges brought forth by the pandemic. According to our survey, 50 percent of respondents have changed benefits policies as a result of COVID-19. Changes include covering telehealth visits, mental health care, and employee portions of health premiums during furloughs. Other changes include extending sick leave, lifting caps on paid time off, and offering medical plans to cover COVID-19-related expenses at no cost to the employee.

Learn More: 5 Specialty Employee Benefits Startups to Watch When Customization Is Everything

Emotional Well-Being Is the Top Priority

This current situation has exposed the essential need for flexibility and empathy to help employees feel safe and supported at work. However, without face-to-face interaction in the office, it’s difficult to monitor employee well-being and engagement. The majority of HR pros (67%) listed caring for employees’ emotional states as their top challenge, followed by preparing for potential negative financial business impacts and preparing the business to end a multiweek quarantine. Tech-enabled pulse-survey tools are a helpful way for leaders to get a better understanding of how employees are feeling and can help HR pros identify team members who may need additional support.

Looking Ahead

Overall, COVID-19 has been a significant learning process and a mechanism to catapult HR practitioners into the spotlight as prime communicators and connectors, as we all adjust to supporting our employees in new and often unexpected ways. Some of the most important lessons moving forward are the need to take the initiative, provide flexibility, and encourage open communication.

Take the initiative to seek and understand the impact the pandemic has and will continue to have on our organizations, our financial and human resources, and our employees’ health and well-being. The effect of this pandemic is vast, and every HR professional plays a valuable and significant role in navigating these unprecedented times.

It’s also important to remember that this situation is temporary, and it is crucial to work with our employees as much as possible to meet their needs. Creating space for employees to balance their work and personal lives is more important than ever.

Lastly, encourage leaders to openly communicate how they are dealing with COVID-19 and the impact it is having on the company and business. Keeping an open communication channel between leaders and employees will facilitate the necessary dialogues that will help us navigate this time together.

Simply put, as we transition to the next phase of this new norm, HR leaders will continue to pave the way for a return to work that ensures both the physical and emotional well-being of our teammates. Working together, leaders and employees must face these challenges head-on and adapt to meet the new realities on the ground.

How do you think organizations can be prepared for return to the office under a new mode of working? Tell us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window .