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With distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine accelerating around the globe, hopes are high that society can reclaim a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy in the coming months—and organizations may look to call many of their remote workers back to physical buildings as the rollout continues. However, there are unique new challenges to in-person work in a post-pandemic world, as organizations who have maintained in-person workforces can attest.

The ASIS Blog talked to Marc Bognar, CPP, chair of the ASIS Security Services Community and panelist of the 2 February webinar What Tomorrow’s Security Officer is Facing Today for advice about managing an in-person workforce in 2021.

Marc Bognar, CPP: Most of us had high hopes that 2021 would be different from 2020; however, the pandemic continues to challenge those hopes. Organizations had to quickly pivot to managing a remote workforce in 2020 and may now be managing considering a return to a hybrid or fully in-person workforce. However, managing that workforce will require adjustments and proactivity.

Employees are now much more sensitized to health and cleanliness then they may have been in the past.  Some will want a return to pre-pandemic routines. Additionally, according to the CDC, as of June 2020, 40% of U.S. adults were struggling with mental health challenges and substance abuse. With another 6 months of the pandemic since that report, the percentage of those struggling are likely to have increased substantially. That coupled with financial, medical and familial stress, and in many cases a full year of remote work, could cause employees to act out or be less comfortable in in person environments. 

Organizations need to plan ahead and communicate steps in advance that they plan to take to adapt to new employee expectations for cleanliness and health and to educate those employees on any new or continuing health related policies even beyond the sunset of governmental restrictions. Organizations should consider how they will manage those that may resist any ongoing health-oriented regimes or policy changes.

Workplaces should consider flexibility for employees who may not be mentally or socially prepared to return to in person work or may need increased Employee Assistance Resources that may not have been as readily available during the pandemic.  Some workers may have lost a caregiver for younger or older family members and may need time to adjust to a return to in person work.

Lastly, employees may be more resistant to a return to in person work when they view their roles as functioning well remotely. That could lead to a risk of attrition for key roles. A phased in or partial return protocol could avoid the loss of talent that could be difficult to replace if the labor market heats up as the pandemic ebbs.