COVID-19: Preparing for a Possible Re-Emergence

As the State of Alaska begins to reopen and employees return to work, we remain hopeful that the worst of the pandemic has passed, and we can return to “business as usual”. However, experts warn of a possible re-emergence of the virus as social distancing decreases. Now is the time for businesses to think ahead to that possibility and make plans for how operations will continue if shelter-in-place mandates return.

Here are some key areas where employers can prepare now for a potential re-emergence of the virus:

Prepare telecommuting policies: When the pandemic began to surge in March, many employers were scrambling to make arrangements for employees to work at home. In the intervening months, we have learned valuable lessons and of resources to allow operations to continue with many employees telecommuting. Employers should use this time to build on that knowledge and identify what worked, what didn’t, and solutions for essential business functions to continue. Clear policies for telecommuting will guide organizational decisions and define for employees what their responsibilities are while working from home. Individual job duties should be reviewed by managers and their employee so there is clear understanding of what is to be done and how. Clear communication regarding expectations and responsibilities now will help prevent issues in the future.

Be familiar with medical leave and paid sick leave for employees under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act: The FFCRA introduced legislation which requires certain employers provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. This law is currently in effect through the end of 2020. Employers need to be aware of situations which may trigger action on their part to provide benefits allowable under the law to employees. To learn more visit APEI’s COVID-19 Education page and select the FFCRA Decision Flow Chart.

Prepare for virtual hiring and onboarding: Most Alaskan employers have experience with some degree of virtual hiring and the many new teleconferencing platforms available are making this easier. But once a hire is made, employers need to think about how a new employee will receive training and guidance from a distance. Starting a job can be stressful in the best of times. Starting a new job without your manager readily available adds a whole new challenge! Taking the time to review your organizational onboarding process and developing methods for delivering training, coaching and feedback will help your new hires settle into their new position and help ensure long term success.

By taking the time to think ahead to the possibility of employees needing to work from home, organizations will be able to make a smoother transition to a work-from-home model if and whenever the need arises.