Change will be the new normal as you return to work: HRPA survey

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The Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA, Toronto) has released the results of its second COVID-19 member survey. Representing dozens of sectors and industries, 1,127 respondents revealed that HR professionals are actively planning returning to work – and the majority said they anticipate significant changes throughout the workplace. Respondents confirm that the first wave of employees returning to work will happen quickly, with the majority of organizations starting the process within the next three months. Looking at return-to-work trends in Ontario, HR professionals revealed the following:

  • 86% have started to plan for employees to return to work
  • 89% plan to recall employees who were temporarily laid off as a result of COVID-19
  • 53% expect to have all of their employees back in the primary workplace within 6 months
  • 38% of workplaces are planning permanent restructuring as a result of COVID-19
Louise Taylor Green.

Louise Taylor Green, CEO of the HRPA, added: “HR professionals have been front and centre in supporting their workplaces and employees through the most significant workforce disruption in modern times. Workplaces will fundamentally change and the ‘new normal’ will require a total reset in HR practices and policies. We see that HR professionals have enabled their organizations to adopt a fundamental mind shift in terms of the viability of remote work, even as teams navigate some major challenges. An astounding 70% of respondents reported that their perceptions of remote work have changed since the pandemic,” Taylor added. Here are some other key takeaways from the survey:

  • Change will be the new normal. 38% of organizations plan permanent restructuring –  including changes to their business model, organizational structure, policies, new workflows, reduction of physical workspaces, downsizing, and the ways people interact.
  • Crises will spur creativity. Respondents contributed many examples of how their organization leveraged their values as a means of retaining and engaging staff, and also looking to the future.  Experimentation and agile change have become the new normal with heightened corporate social responsibility actions.
  • The 9-to-5 norm is radically changing. A wide array of programs are being put in place, including modified work schedules (25%), flex time (19%), and rotating shifts (18%).
  • Relationships within unionized workplaces will remain stable. For unionized workplaces (31% of total respondents), only 16% found an increase in grievances. Perception of relationships with labour/management has remained just about the same (64% positive relationship before COVID-19, and 62% positive currently).
  • Working from home is here to stay. 81% of organizations are planning to permanently retain or expand remote-working options.
  • Supporting working families is now a priority. 76% of organizations are planning to make special arrangements to assist their employees as schools and child-care centres remain closed, and summer camps are not yet available.
  • Strict health and safety measures are expected. For 80% of organizations, sign-off will be required on any new and/or updated policies or procedures related to health, safety or hygiene in the workplace prior to returning to work.  Nearly all (95%) plan to implement or expand the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, but the ways in which this need is being met, varies. Of these companies, 91% are prepared to discipline employees for failing to comply.
  • Business travel will be on hold. 85% of respondents confirmed that changes to policies and approaches to business travel will be in effect – including travel of any kind that will be postponed indefinitely or, if travel is permitted, it will require approval from company executives.

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