HR expert says new normal coming for office work after coronavirus pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Through the coronavirus pandemic, teleworking has become normal and necessary for many businesses across the country. As states begin to get potential reopening dates on the calendar, white-collar workers will soon have to return to the office. A human resources expert says companies and workers should be prepared for more changes to come.

Rhiannon Staples, chief managing officer at HR platform Hibob, says they should expect drastic changes in mass transit commutes and elevator rides, as companies continue to mandate social distancing.

"Basic awareness of your proximity to other people is something all employees need to have top of mind," she said.

"It's so customary for us to want to hug or shake hands, or high-five someone we haven't seen for a while, so we're going to have to work against our instinct."

She adds bosses will need to take into account other complications their employees may be dealing with, such as childcare, sick family members and loved ones, and more general fears concerning the virus.

"From a managerial perspective, the ability to be really thoughtful and empathetic and patient with employees is probably the first order," she said.

Staples adds managers need to be diligent about making sure employees feel safe in the office space.

"Making sure that sanitation choices are acceptable to your employees, make sure that you're upping your cleaning staff, and that the office is being sanitized frequently," she said.

Staples says managers alsoa want to have open conversations with employees to keep them up to date on different measures they are implementing.

She says it may take a little time for some offices to return to full staff, and that's for the best.

"We're seeing some managers take provisions to have their employees come back in shifts, so that not as many people are in the work space at the same time," she said.

And if employees have anxiety about returning to work, Staples says they will need to advocate for themselves.

"I'd encourage employees to certainly have private conversations with their manager, to the extent that they're comfortable doing so, and also with your HR team," she said. "The HR teams are very plugged in to this right now. They understand the need to see the 'human' in 'human resources.'"

Staples says the best advice she can give is for people to be patient with themselves, their colleagues and their employees.