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HR: Change Agents for the Evolving Workplace


Someone pressing a tablet with the words HR
Image: WrightStudio -
While COVID-19 has thrown into question many of the workplace practices we once held to be true, it has also shown through cross-department collaboration — largely between IT, HR, and facility professionals — that creating safe, productive workplaces is possible, even during troubling times.
For Lynn Dunk, HR director for medical packaging company Paxxus, cross-departmental collaboration has been key — for herself as well as and the company — in weathering the COVID-19 moment. Not only is Paxxus doing its part in the fight against COVID-19, manufacturing packaging for test kits, but it is also rethinking how to ensure workplace safety while maintaining worker productivity.
At the start of the pandemic, Dunk, working with peers in other departments, implemented many of the changes that we’ve heard about elsewhere. Paxxus put face-covering and social distancing requirements in place, and erected plexiglass barriers between workstations, Dunk shared in an interview with WorkSpace Connect. They also began taking employee temperatures at the start of the business day, limiting the number of employee entrances to streamline the process, Dunk said. And to stay on top of it all, they closely followed federal recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as guidance from the public health department in Illinois, where it is headquartered, and mandates from Governor J.B. Pritzker, Dunk said.
Facilities professionals were also an integral part of Paxxus's COVID-19 response. Supplies like hand sanitizer, dispensers, and thermal cameras quickly became a hot commodity, so it was a top priority of facilities professionals to secure these resources to ensure the safety of everyone at Paxxus, Dunk explained.
HR policies have accompanied these workplace changes, with the goal of ensuring that employees who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms can remain home, “instead of feeling obligated to come to work,” Dunk said. Additionally, a COVID-19 task force formed at the beginning of the pandemic continues to meet weekly to discuss related activities and COVID-19 updates, Dunk said.
And of course, “technology played a significant role in keeping us all connected during the pandemic,” Dunk said. Paxxus’s IT department worked to get the tools and the access that WFH employees needed, Dunk went on to say. And in some ways, the switch to video meetings, through Cisco Webex, has improved relationships with these now WFH employees, she added. “We are able to hear and see each other, and even inject some humor with the variety of background landscapes,” Dunk said. 
Looking to the future, Dunk sees HR’s role as a crucial one for creating the workplaces of the future. “It is our responsibility as HR professionals to be the change agents and understand our workplaces will continue to evolve and grow with the changing landscape,” Dunk said. And while Dunk acknowledged that “emerging technologies to aid and enhance communication” will continue to be crucial, the importance of one aspect isn’t to be forgotten — that being the human touch.