HR Teams – The People Side of Bringing People Back to Work

May 4, 2021

As some offices return to in-office and others build up a digital architecture to support hybrid work, HR must help external workers adapt.
Mike Lindstrum, Vice President Consulting Services at Mainstay

The pandemic has opened up several opportunities for change that HR leaders will need to address from a people-first perspective.

COVID-19 redefined the work-life roles of most employees and questioned how we manage their safety—whether in the office or at home. It also rerouted many of the pre-pandemic communication channels that HR relied on to protect the quality of their employee’s work life. Not to mention the new strategies that will accompany digital recruitment.

But it isn’t just technology that will solve the questions about adapting to a blended workplace.

A more pressing question might be: how will HR respond to the uniquely human challenges facing us today, and how can we guide our colleagues’ behaviors as HR professionals while we all transition to the new workplace?

Post-COVID HR: Engaging with Several Worker Populations at Once

Surveys on workplace preferences among employees who have the option to stay home show that the very idea of the workplace is undergoing a major shift. In April 2021, FlexJobs reported that, of all workers who engaged at work at home during the pandemic, only 2% want to return to the office. But, encouragingly, as much as 33% of the same group favor a blended workplace model. One of the questions that HR leaders will have to face is, how do we connect with both populations?

Indeed, it’s not only up to HR to embrace the divided world of work and open space for all employees—both at home and blended–to feel equally safe, nurtured, and connected with management. We’ll also need to find new strategies to promote quality work-life, even if the notion of a quality work-life changes radically.

How Do We Listen to Our Remote Employees?

HR’s task of nurturing work-life quality—including security and recognition from management—also asks that we hear the grievances that our remote colleagues voice. That is to say, we’ll have to stress the human side of HR, just as much as the resource side.

The same 2021 survey as above points to three reasons against remote work:

  • Tech Problems
  • Distractions at Home
  • Inability to Unplug

It’s critical that HR step up in the coming months to embrace these new (though not so new) concerns. As some hybrid offices return to 100% in-office and others decide to build up a digital architecture to support their work-at-homers, the reshuffling process will be trying for many employees. HR must step up and help external workers adapt.

Setting Guidelines to Even the Playing Field

How do we remind external workers that their labor is just as valuable as the work completed in the office? One way is to invest in a faster alarm system that responds to at-home tech issues just as fast as if an employee’s computer broke down at HQ.

If external employees are stressed because they can’t leave their workstation as easily as they did at the office, HR can employ training sessions. The goal would be to make the new demands on work-life balance transparent. Draft policies company-wide that adopt strict cut-off times on the company cloud or video chat software.

As HR pros, we understand the importance of keeping an open-door policy. Under the waning days of the pandemic, it’s even more important to assure everyone—especially remote workers—that we are listening and that we have their safety in mind. Perhaps we can open a group chat for remote and hybrid workers to use if they need our help.

Hard-set guidelines not only clarify what time is company time and what isn’t, but they also show that HR cares about the post-COVID growing pains of all employees equally.

If your HR team is interested in more solutions to change and communicate to the people-side of your organization, we can help. At Mainstay, our Prosci-certified change management professionals are uniquely qualified to help address post-pandemic changes in workplaces. We can identify a change management solution to fit your company’s new initiatives and policies—we might even find a solution to an issue you didn’t know you had! Contact us at

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