Back to work in a new world: a guide to adjusting workplace policies

workplace policies

Although we’re unable to predict if there will be another pandemic spike, there is some speculation that it could be some time before its business as usual again. Workplace policies have had to adapt in such big ways, when business as usual does return, it will now mean something else entirely.

As restrictions ease and employees look at going ‘back to work,’ it’s worth reviewing how workplace policies need to change as well. Below are some key points about adapting workplace policies and guidelines. Consider discussing them with your HR and leadership teams, as well as some of the updates mentioned in our last blog: Human Resources and Change: How to Adapt to Disruption in a Modern World.

Sick Leave Policies

Are your employees staying home when they need to? Many office cultures haven’t allowed people to take the time-off they really need, and it expected that they ‘tough it out’ at the office. How will you ensure sick leave policies are adjusted and adhered to? Start by reviewing your existing time-off policies and any additional policies enacted during Covid-19.

  • Discuss the current policies and cultural expectations with employees
    • How can you make them more comfortable with staying home when ill?
    • Ensure employees know they will not be reprimanded if they stay home due to illness
  • Consider adding additional sick days
  • Put in place guidelines for returning to work after illness

Cross Training

Ensuring you have more than one employee trained on skills and with the required access for certain essential tasks will increase your organization’s versatility and resilience in case of illness.

  • Find out which employees have an interest in or the ability to take on additional responsibilities
  • Consider adding more mentorship and training opportunities
    • This is not only helpful during a crisis, but something that employees are seeking in a more human centric workplace
  • Plan ahead to ensure an employee taking on more work will not be overwhelmed
    • Prioritize essential tasks, put support in place, and improve communication channels

Remote Working Policies and Capabilities

The timeline for the workplace of tomorrow has been thrown out the window. Businesses both small and large have had to adapt quickly to rely heavily on technology to survive this crisis. Recent polls have been showing that only 38% of Canadians are comfortable returning to work right now, and around 50% of Americans want to continue working from home.

Not every job can be done from home. However, technology and enabling remote work wherever possible is now necessary for ensuring safety, attracting and retaining talent, and staying competitive.

  • Evaluate what tools are available, and get advice on where to invest
  • Talk with employees and management about where they’re struggling and where technology can help
  • Review or put into place remote or work from home policies

If your organization is looking for more information or thought leadership on technology in the modern workplace, our eBook is free and a great place to start.

Health and Safety Policies

Are your health and safety policies compliant and up-to-date? Can you quickly and clearly update employees as situations change? Can employees easily access vital health and safety information?

  • Consider going paperless
    • Helps lower contamination risk
    • Digitalized and centralized information is easier to access and can be updated more easily
  • Include social distancing measures when reviewing health and safety policies
    • Would barriers, individual offices, spacing, or altering shifts make more sense?
    • Should common areas be restricted or repurposed?
  • Review sanitary measures and consider supplying masks, and hand sanitizer

Whether your organization has implemented working from home, added safety measures, or closed temporarily, it’s difficult to find any workplace worldwide that hasn’t had to adjust. Clear communication and strong leadership will be needed as organizations continue to navigate what comes next. Reviewing and updating policies, and adding structure wherever possible can only help.

If you need advice, insight, or have a topic you would like to see covered in the future, please contact us at