Balance remote work and face-to-face work in a safe environment

Twenty days are missing from the publication of this article for the entry into force of the new law on distance work in Spain (Royal Decree-Law 28/2020). And at this time one of the main concerns of companies is how to organize work from the point of view of the presence-distance binomial. Employee chats burn with the same question: Will they force us to go back to the office every day when the pandemic passes? And most HR departments are trapped in the paradox of having to design what post-COVID telework will be like and the hard day-to-day management of the incidence of COVID itself. A complex and stressful situation.

At what point should you start implementing the post-COVID telework model?

The founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, advised new members of the Society not to move in times of tribulation. Although in another context, this would be my first advice. The teleworking that you have been able to implement responds to an exceptional model that has adapted to an exceptional situation. There are too many unknowns to solve. In the first place, the effects of a pandemic that has not stopped. Second, an ‘express’ change management that has not allowed managers and employees to assume this new reality well prepared. And finally, a royal decree-law on remote work, approved on September 22, which, although it establishes a first regulatory framework, leaves many important decisions to a collective bargaining that has not occurred. For all the above, I believe that it is not the best moment to define what the teleworking model will be like in the future in a specific organization. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. Unlike. Now is the time to experiment and prepare for the future (post-COVID teleworking). But without being too explicit, it is better to be cautious until you see how the unknowns are cleared and your template responds to the changes.

How to organize face-to-face shifts safely? The Alpha, the Bravo and the Charlie

One of the main difficulties that the HR department has had to manage is the actions against COVID-19 infections in workers. This is inevitable, because most of these infections come from interactions in the private sphere and the company is not immune to them. However, from a security point of view, you can prepare so that these infections have the least possible impact in terms of internal transmission.

To do this, below, I explain seven very simple ideas.

  • Try to organize the provision of work so that there is as little contact as possible between working people. You must try to produce the same bubble effect within the company that is taking place in schools.
  • To achieve this bubble effect, it establishes fixed shifts to provide the service. As an example, you can set two shifts: the first that works in person Monday, Tuesday and alternate Friday, the second that works in person on alternate Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The rest of the days, telecommuting. Make clear the importance of fixed shifts, for safety. Divide the working people into halves, taking the department or organizational unit as the axis of that division.
  • Establish a different shift for managers, so that they can have direct supervision over all of their teams, that is, over the two shifts. This means that, in the previous model, managers should work in person, at least Tuesday and Wednesday and two continuous Fridays.
  • Try to ‘gamify’ the system. Assign names to each turn (in this case they could be the Alpha-managers-, the Bravo and the Charlie). This way you will have people assigned to Bravo shift and Charlie shift and Bravo Friday and Charlie Friday. It is easy to understand.
  • Before implementing the system, talk to the managers. Make a video conference with all of them and solve their doubts. The HR department should be seen as an internal advisor, a help. Oh, and if you haven’t done it yet, train them now in remote team management.
  • Don’t forget to have a registration system for shift assignments so that you can see who works each day, in advance. There are many applications for this, but if you don’t have any you can do it with a simple data sheet in the cloud, accessible to everyone.

The above are ideas that you can implement now, during the pandemic. However, there are things you should start thinking about. For example, start designing a scorecard to help managers set and track individual and group performance goals. Bear in mind that efficient corporate telework requires greater degrees of autonomy and self-management of the workers. But that is not at odds, on the contrary, with having a dashboard for monitoring the objectives set. You should also think about the financial model of teleworking, because the new regulations will lead you to have to pay for the provision and maintenance of the means, equipment and tools. In short, do numbers.

A flexible system that allows you to adapt extraordinary situations.

When you have the model prepared (and written in procedural form), the moment of truth comes: put it into operation. But do not forget that at any time your company may have an infected worker. At that time you must preventively confine all their contacts, until confirmation or not by PCR. That is when the model shows its virtues. If it has been implemented correctly, it should only be activated on the people on duty (Bravo or Charlie) from a specific department. In any case, to fine-tune the previous process, it is highly recommended that you have internal trackers. People who are in charge of talking with infected people and compile their list of contacts in the last days. Once this is done, let them coordinate the isolation of these contacts until confirmation or not of the disease.