Employees Getting Back in the Office – Time to Revisit Employment Processes

14 June 2021 Blog
Authors: Leonard V. Feigel
Published To: Coronavirus Resource Center:Back to Business Labor & Employment Law Perspectives

It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic forced employers to face unprecedented challenges.  Just to name a few, employers had to cope with “stay-at-home” orders, shifting some or all of the workforce to remote duties, supply chain interruptions, and wide variations in customer demand.  In short, employers were forced to adapt –often quickly – in order to succeed or, in many cases, just to survive.  Some employers were forced to conduct layoffs (permanent and temporary), others faced employment shortages, and some employers conducted layoffs in some departments, but faced shortages in others. 

As a result, the job duties for certain positions may have significantly changed, pay scales for positions may have changed, and other typical employment practices/processes, such as performance evaluations, may have been modified or canceled in the short term.  Now that many employees are returning to the office (or will be in the near future) and the frantic pace of constant change has diminished, it may be time to revisit some fundamental process items and make sure they reflect and are in alignment with current practices. 

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions should accurately reflect the duties and responsibilities of the position. A job description not only describes the position’s responsibilities, it impacts recruiting, sets work performance expectations, and is the foundation for evaluation of performance and maintaining an equitable compensation system.  Job descriptions also play a key role in evaluating requests for reasonable accommodations due to disability and religious creed. 

Job descriptions should be updated to address permanent changes to the principal job duties that occurred during the pandemic.  Additionally, if an individual’s job duties changed, such as performing additional or different duties than others with the same job title, a new job description with a new job title may be appropriate.  The job descriptions should also address whether working physically in the office is an essential duty of the position.

Performance Evaluations

Many companies reported that they modified or canceled performance reviews during the pandemic.  In some cases, midyear reviews were canceled but annual reviews continued.  In other cases, performance reviews reflected reduced quotas or modifications to the description of the rating system.  In some cases, formalized performance reviews were replaced with frequent, informal check-ins with employees.  Now that things are getting back to normal (or at least the new normal), companies should clearly communicate what the performance process will be moving forward.  Will some (or all) of the tweaks initiated during the pandemic continue, will the process return to what it was before the pandemic, or will completely new changes be implemented? 

Companies should always be looking to improve their standard documents and process items. Thus, reviewing forms and developing processes based on what worked best both before and during the pandemic may be one of the few positives to come from the pandemic.

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