Now that our local area will soon resume business activities, it is prudent to start shaping our new “normal”. Business owners and managers plan annually to assess worst-case scenarios that may impact their business as it relates to their greatest assets – their employees – but now we should take more of a quarterly approach if not monthly approach. Pandemics are least likely to be planned for but now is the time to update your Employee Handbook and Emergency Disaster Plans using the knowledge that we’ve gained over the last 6 weeks and include a plan for a resurgence of COVID-19.

Usually, disaster recovery plans are not well maintained but unfortunately, we have used ours consistently over the last four years due to hurricanes and flooding. Remember how your employees have been impacted and update policies to mitigate any issues you’ve encountered. These are unchartered waters. Do not underestimate input from your staff. They will have valuable input since they have been actively working despite barriers. As a business owner or leader, working through an overabundance of uncertainty can take its toll, collaborating with colleagues may you move forward quicker. Leaders must lead by example, be as transparent as possible, and communicate frequently to display the confidence that team members need.

As we move ahead, there will be numerous HR-related challenges to overcome. Some of the most complicated challenges may consist of transforming remote work structures, promoting a “remote” nurturing culture, revamping talent acquisition and retention methods, disseminating information, managing compliance, and recordkeeping (i.e. Family First leave, COVID-19 related injuries).

One of the most challenging issues will be furloughing or laying off employees due to reduced revenue and drained financial assistance for small businesses. It is crucial for business owners to clearly articulate plans to re-hire, if possible, and explain viable solutions to returning employees – work may include less than a fulltime schedule, returning as a contractor (if feasible), pay cuts, or redirecting them through a temporary agency so the company can manage overhead costs as they recover. However, be prepared for the possibility that some laid-off employees have moved on or have decided to continue collecting unemployment benefits, which may be more money than they were receiving as an employee. You may want to reach out to a staffing firm for temporary employees to help with re-opening your business until you are ready to hire permanent staff.

The best we can do for our business prior to reopening is to plan. Remember to run scenarios and allocate applicable costs as you plan to bring back employees while experiencing reduced revenues and unexpected costs (i.e. Workers’ Compensation, cost of Family First FMLA wages and possible extension, telecommuting tools, etc.). Do not underestimate the benefit of creating an advisory team and asking for assistance from HR professionals to help you navigate staffing and compliance. Most importantly remember to be creative, compassionate, and to breathe – this too shall pass.