In the wake of COVID-19, the return to work has different meanings and considerations depending upon industry, business size and location. Some organizations are transitioning workers back into offices at a faster pace than others, and while they must comply with state and local requirements, government sources don’t spell out exactly how every business needs to respond to the global health event.

Given these circumstances, it’s understandable that business and HR leaders are looking for direction. ADP’s return to work guide provides advice on how to formulate new policies and make strategic and talent decisions that can help employers succeed and thrive as they reopen.

Return to work policies

Deciding when, whether and how to return to work and reopen workplaces requires a multidisciplinary approach and a review of existing policies and practices. For example, now is the time to make sure that attendance and telecommuting policies are updated to reflect recent changes.

The key to successful employee policies, whether they are new or revised, is to ensure compliance with jurisdictional guidelines. Employers should also clearly communicate the updates to their workforce and provide consistent reminders for reinforcement.

Payment methods

Business owners who aren’t currently offering electronic pay to their employees, may want to consider transitioning to direct deposit, which is more convenient and cost-effective than printing and delivering paper checks. Another way to compensate employees with fewer delays is through paycards. They can be used everywhere that credit and debit cards are accepted and allow for touchless purchasing.

Unemployment best practices

It's good practice for employers to help displaced workers receive the unemployment benefits for which they may be eligible. When reducing hours, wages or staff for reasons related to COVID-19, provide a written statement to the affected employees that includes the following:

  • Confirmation that the reduction is due to COVID-19
  • Effective date of the action
  • Type of reduction in hours or pay
  • Length of reduction (temporary/permanent/undetermined)
  • Date of hire (if available) and last date physically worked
  • A reminder to share these facts with the unemployment agency

Employees should also be instructed in the type of information they will need to provide when filing for unemployment, such as legal name, Social Security number, mailing address, etc. By following these guidelines, employers can assist state unemployment agencies in making faster determinations on eligibility and, in turn, help employees receive unemployment benefits in a timely fashion.

Data security measures

Previous security capabilities and protocols may not be sufficient during a lockdown when ad hoc practices are frequently used to handle situations. To help prevent a data breach, employers should be aware of risks in all of the places where they do business. Shoring up supply chain or multi-national payroll and HR with an integrated, cloud-based system can also greatly improve business resilience and information security.

How technology can improve the return to work

For HR and payroll departments, the immediate focus of returning to work is highly tactical and operational – people need to be paid, have access to their health benefits and manage their time information. Employers who experience issues in any of these areas may want to upgrade their tools and technology by taking these measures:

  • Leverage mobile capabilities and encourage self-service wherever possible to manage work-life virtually.
  • Encourage direct deposit and paycards as payroll options, which won’t be affected by office closures and offer greater freedom for underbanked and unbanked employees.
  • Integrate time and attendance tools with other HR systems to streamline processes and improve accuracy.
  • Implement an HR system that maintains benefits eligibility for all employees, even when their work status changes (flex, part-time hours) or when they leave the organization and are eligible for COBRA.
  • Make handbooks available online to keep employees up-to-date on policy changes and procedures for addressing questions.

Return to work guidance for remote employees

With the widespread shift to remote work, employees may need support as they adjust to new conditions. To make a positive impact on engagement and productivity, HR leaders should:

  • Be aware of stress
    Promoting positive mental health in a work environment often starts with acknowledging the challenges.
  • Assess productivity expectations
    Talk to employees about their workload and expectations. If productivity is lacking, consider offering flexible deadlines or technology that eliminates repetitive tasks so they can get more accomplished.
  • Recognize that employees are dealing with different issues
    Employees may have additional stressors at home, like homeschooling children or caring for sick loved ones.
  • Foster connection
    Overcome the lack of social interaction by using video conferencing, messaging applications and collaboration software.
  • Communicate about health benefits
    Sending out a newsletter to remind employees of their coverage and providing links to telehealth services can help people get the support they need.

Drive productivity further with gig workers

By using independent contractors, employers can respond to changing demands for specific skills, experience or expertise, when and where they’re needed. This adaptability, along with the fact that they are faster to onboard then regular employees, makes gig workers ideal for ideal for short-term tasks and projects. Businesses that become accustomed to working with these individuals will have a more agile and resilient workforce and may be better positioned to succeed in the future economy.

Returning to work in global environments

Countries and local economies are at different phases of the global health event. This presents unique challenges for multinational businesses. With legislation evolving so rapidly and plans for reopening cities and regions being canceled, moved or changed on a day-to-day basis, the best source of guidance is local counsel in the areas where a business operates.

How ADP can help with global compliance

ADP's legislative compliance team maintains a detailed knowledge of global payroll legislation and ensures that changes are incorporated into our products. In addition to our client portals, we regularly communicate information on our COVID-19 resources and business resiliency plans with our multi-country payroll clients.