HR technology platforms support safe return to the office

Office safety plans get a shot in the arm

Long obscured by the lingering pandemic cloud, the outlook for a return to the office has been brightening lately, thanks to HR technology platforms that support safety protocols and worker productivity, as well as the historically expeditious FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines.

Office reopening plans have included social distancing, mask wearing, temperature readings, contact tracing, staggered work schedules and automated workflows. But a large majority of employees are continuing to work from home -- and for good reason. Worker productivity in remote environments, once considered a negative, hasn't suffered during the pandemic and, in many cases, has improved.

Revamped business models over the past several months have reflected this new mindset. As a result, workforce planning is striking a balance between a limited number of workers returning to the office under current COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and a greater number of employees working exclusively from home. "Our best estimate is that 25% to 30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021," wrote Kate Lister, president of telecommuting research and consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics.

Yet planning for a return to the office will now need to be tempered by the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations for employees and the prospect of a larger-than-anticipated number of workers returning to the office. According to a Forrester Research 2020 U.S. PandemicEX survey, 30% of U.S. workers said their job can't be done remotely, and 44% of employees working from home "can't wait to get back to the office" post-pandemic.

This handbook reports on the HR cloud-based technologies and practices that companies are implementing, including business reopening apps, management software and sensor technologies to ensure employee safety, monitor employee health, measure behavior, track personal protective equipment inventories, schedule employee shifts, and keep employees informed, engaged and productive.