Sklover & Company, LLC

Employment Attorneys

Serving Executives, Professionals and Senior Managers​

ExecutiveLaw Navigating the Post-Covid Return

17. Navigating the Post-Covid Return

Five Navigation “Musts” for Executives and Managers

While no one can be certain of all the ways the Covid pandemic will ultimately affect the workplace, preparations are already underway for the “Post-Covid Return” to the office. Before those “welcome back notices” are sent, though, executives and senior managers have a lot of “navigating” around both existing and developing risks. Last year’s employee “Covid Migration Homeward” was quite rushed, with little time for careful planning. This year’s “Covid Return to the Office,” comes with more time to plan, but more sticky issues to plan around.

We asked about fifty of our executive clients what subjects they felt most urgently called for their prudent navigation at this time. Their responses are summarized below.

Navigation “Must” #1 – Accept that New Forms of Leadership are Now Needed: Thought Leaders in employment relations and legal trends are nearly unanimous: the new workplace is going to be different than the old one, with different dynamics, that call for new forms of leadership. Employees are just not the same people they were 18 months ago.

One poll found an astounding 46% of employees reporting they would resign if they were required to return to the office full-time, while only 2% of employees reported that they are looking forward to it. Experts in workplace psychology posit that two changes in leadership of millennials and “Gen Z” employees are surely necessary: (i) finding and leading through the principle of “purpose” in the organization’s work, and (ii) finding new “processes” that best apply to managing in the new “distant working workplace.”

Simply put: Adapt or Perish. These “out of the box” times will increasingly require “out of the box” leadership. There is, and will be, a new workplace dynamic. This is not “fluff.” It is cold, harsh reality, headed your way.

Navigation “Must” #2 – Direct an Immediate Identification of Likely Legal Risks. As most survey respondents pointed out, “Covid Return” lawsuits have already started, and they will not likely soon disappear. Given that the Senior Manager’s first duty is to protect the enterprise, her or his first task is to “batten down the hatches” of potential legal risks that could jeopardize the company’s interests. That requires identifying and assessing them, and then mitigating them.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently ruled that employers may lawfully require those coming into the workplace to first be Covid-vaccinated, but it has also recognized three exemptions: (i) good faith religious or spiritual beliefs, (ii) certifiable medical reasons, and (iii) pregnancy or lactation. For each of these, the employee may be offered a reasonable accommodation, such as wearing a facemask or social distancing at the office. What is “good faith?” What does “certifiable” mean? What is “reasonable?” Those are the kinds of issues that lawsuits and juries will clarify over time. But not on your time or on your “dime” if you properly plan.

For now, your HR, Compliance and Legal teams are the ones to be tasked with identifying, assessing and mitigating risk of employment-related issues, and suggesting steps to avoid and diminish the tensions that give rise to legal claims. At the same time, it is more common than ever that legal claims are aimed at executives personally. It is now more important than ever to review with Counsel that you are adequately indemnified for the possible expenses of any law suit naming you, personally, as a defendant. With the consequences so significant, careful navigation is thus so important.

Navigation “Must” #3: Grant a Clear and Convincing Mandate of Authority to Your “Steadiest Hand.” This common response did not surprise us. Several respondents shared their experience that return to the office – full-time or part-time – is a good deal more vexing than was the Exodus. They potentially involve issues as wide-ranging as scheduling in-office attendance, office design and function, conference room availabilities, information technology, even air quality, and elevator protocol.

Most survey respondents reported that they are assigning overall Covid Return planning and execution responsibility to one identified Manager who has shown herself or himself to be particularly confident in and adept at dealing with wide-ranging issues and coordination on a company-wide scale. The granting of a clear and convincing “Public Mandate” by communicating that the “Covid Czar” with direct report to “the top,” and equal authority as well as accountability, was noted repeatedly. Where there is clear delegation of authority and responsibility, there is surely greater motivation by means of accountability.

Navigation “Must” #4: Clearly Communicate the New “Covid Return Rules.” Clear and repeated communication of the new “Rules of the Covid Return,” whatever they are, or may become, was a common response. One-on-one communication is one thing; company-wide communication is quite another. Bearing in mind that most planned “Covid Returns” are of a “hybrid nature” – that is, something like three days “in office,” two days “out” – these “New Rules” are temporary in nature, necessarily flexible, and likely to change with coming Covid statistics and CDC and state health guidelines.

Not only will clear and continual communication of the “Covid Rules” likely serve to limit legal risks arising from claims of “different treatment of different kinds of people,” but clarity will likely prevent the corrosive perception that “it’s who you know that really counts.” One responding executive termed what’s needed to be “Communication Squared.” Another described what is called for as “Clarity on Steroids.”

Navigation “Must” #5: Pay Enhanced Attention to Engagement, Morale and Retention of Your Best People. It’s no secret: the past 18 months have been a long, long 18 months for us all. We are all a little “Covid Cranky,” if not worse. There are so many among us who need a bit of soothing of the soul. Almost daily. We are fielding calls from executives regarding unusually difficult staff behaviors.

And, too, no one can afford to lose their shining stars, their best and brightest, their “true keepers.” Several survey responders noted they are in the midst of creating both short-term and long-term incentives for this very reason, including among them leadership training, assigned mentoring, new forms of equity, even titles that connote designation as future leadership.

In sum, it’s always wise to learn from the lessons learned the hard way by others. Giving consideration to these five “must-consider” Covid Return navigations can only help, regardless of the size, nature, business or complexity of your enterprise and its workplace. In all you do, do it well. Good Luck!!

We offer confidential telephone consultations as a first, preliminary step in providing counsel to those with workplace or career problems or opportunities. They are available days, evenings and weekends, depending upon urgency. For those with questions related to matters on which we were retained and worked with them during the preceding 12 months, brief discussions, without review of new documents, are provided without charge. For others, our Schedule of Consultation Fees can be found on our About page. Consultation arrangements can be made with Ms. Vanessa Mustapha or Ms. Phyllis Granger at 212.757.5000, or by email to or

(If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions about these Insights, please consider sharing them with us, by forwarding them to us at Thank you, in advance.)

© Copyright 2020 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved and Strictly Enforced.

ExecutiveLaw Career Brand

1. Your Unique Career Brand

“Either you are distinct, or you will become extinct.”
– Tom Peters

We are enthusiasts when it comes to the practice and pursuit of branding and, of course, when it comes to employment, the notion of “career branding.”

Each of us has a unique personal brand, namely what others think of when they think of us. It is their sum total view of what we offer the world, our value to others, and to our clients, customers, employers and colleagues. Your brand precedes you, empowers you, and follows you, wherever you go.

Your “career brand” is what your present employer and all potential employers think of your potential value to them, and thus what they need to offer you in return for your working for them. Your knowledge, skills, relations and reputation have taken a great deal of time and effort to learn, acquire, and develop, and is a reflection of your personality, character and the standards you have set for yourself.

You create your brand each and every day, whether you know it or not. If you don’t proactively create and enhance your career brand, you leave that critical task to luck and chance, or worse, permit others to define it for you.

The employment marketplace is an increasingly competitive place. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has written “Good enough is no longer good enough.” We could not agree more. If you don’t have a distinctive, attractive, outstanding career brand, in the employment marketplace you are likely perceived as little more than an easily replaceable commodity.

Most of our clients have devoted and continue to devote significant effort and imagination to creation and enhancement of their own, distinctive career brand, and enjoy the multiple and varied “fruits” of their efforts. Their experiences are as inspiring to us as they are rewarding for them, in the broadest sense and spirit of those two words.

ExecutiveLaw™ Insights

  1. Your Unique Career Brand
  2. Managing Employment Risks
  3. The Recruitment Phase
  4. The Negotiation Phase
  5. Equity “Trap Doors”
  6. Climbing the Ladder
  7. If Difficulties, Disputes or Allegations Arise
  8. Navigating Employment Departures
  9. Continuing Restrictions
  10. Extending Career Longevity