June 15th, 2021

Returning to Work, But Not to Normal

On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, Business Services Group chair Attorney Tom Reilly joined a panel of local professionals for a free webinar “Returning to Work, But Not to Normal.” The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted the event. Although most businesses and working Americans are tired of hearing about the “new normal” created by the COVID-19 pandemic, questions about returning to work are mounting. Perhaps some staff will remain remote, while others return – some vaccinated, some not. How can businesses successfully navigate the reopening process and continue to manage their employees and operations well, when it’s likely “the office” will never be the same again?

The new workplace

As shared by Tom Reilly, recent surveys show employees have mixed opinions and preferences for returning to work. Employers are considering both the cost savings and increased technology and cybersecurity costs associated with allowing remote work long-term, learning how to manage a split work force and maintain engagement and productivity. While there will issues and challenges during this transition, businesses which are proactive in their planning process, and which clearly establish how to be what they want to be, stand to be most successful in their path forward.

Hiring challenges

While uncertainty is certain in business and can create fear and doubt, it also creates opportunity according to Allied Personnel Services COO and presenter Susan Larkin. Employers can reinforce culture and generate trust and loyalty with new policies. Policies should be short, simple and consider all stakeholders. Of course, one of the bigger concerns for many companies is the ongoing labor shortage. To help address this, Susan recommends companies assess their: 

  • compensation
  • competition
  • requirements
  • training
  • flexibility

The role of IT infrastructure and cybersecurity

While many companies were prepared to have some employees work remote during the initial shutdown, most companies were not prepared to have all employees work remote, recalled presenter and EZ Micro IT Solutions President David Dooley. As businesses fast tracked their IT systems to accommodate remote work needs, not all changes were done right and should be addressed in regards to sustainability and long-term technology goals. With cybersecurity recently in the news, Dave reinforced the need to secure employee networks, knowing many will remain remote – at home, on public wi-fi, or personal hotspots – and recommended several techniques for safeguarding your systems

How reopening reflects culture

Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tony Iannelli shared how his organization turned into a chamber of communities amidst the pandemic. By working together with local leaders they were able to help disperse much needed funds to local businesses. With a “culture of understanding” guiding its actions, the Chamber prioritized flexibility for its employees and constituents, keeping mental health and optimism at the forefront throughout the pandemic and as the local business community continues to open up. 

Questions and answers

All four presenters joined at the end to answer a few questions. To hear their responses and watch the entire webinar, simply click on the image below: