Today’s organizations have to remain alert and adaptive to unforeseen events, such as external crises, which create increased uncertainty among their workforce and pose immediate threats to the organizations’ performance and viability. It’s likely that the way we work, exercise, shop, learn, communicate, and of course, where we work, will be forever changed as a result of COVID-19.
The impact of Covid-19 on health, economies, and markets is an unfolding story that is complex and fluid in its ever-changing dimensions. One of the biggest visible impacts of the virus has been on the organizations and the nature of workplaces. As the coronavirus spread invisibly across the globe, nation after nation has declared lockdowns, and organizations have scrambled to comply with lockdown restrictions while striving to keep operations going. Work-from-home (WFH) became the immediate solution to business continuity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also created a particularly challenging environment for human resource management (HRM) – with managers having to quickly venture into the “unknown unknowns” as they strive to help their workforce adapt to and cope with radical changes occurring in the work and social environment. Hence, agility, creativity, flexibility – these are the attributes demonstrated by HR in the lockdown or work from home scenario. As employees started logging in remotely, HR functions stepped up to transform brick-and-mortar offices into virtual workplaces almost overnight. Guidelines to ensure that employees could manage WFH seamlessly and securely had to be quickly defined and disseminated. In many cases, employees had to be supported with digital infrastructure – laptops- to ensure that business continuity could be maintained.
While remaining connected may lead to short-term productivity, it is important for employers and employees to realize the long-term implications of this work culture. For the employee, this can trigger declining health and happiness levels, and for the employer, it could erode the engagement, productivity, and loyalty of the employee in the long run. In this context, HR can play an important role in enforcing a positive and balanced work structure- one that is practiced across the board, and ensures all employees are suitably engaged and well-rested.
So here are the top five things that Managers must do right now in ensuring that everyone remains positive and engaged:
Communicate with empathy
Demonstrating empathy and listening to employees is critical, particularly during a crisis that can be daunting. Employees are keen to be heard, and the HR team plays an important function in providing that support.
Invest in training
One of the things that keep employees engaged is knowing that the organization cares about educating and upskilling them. Changing workplace needs require employees to pick up new skills to stay relevant. The company’s HR team can lead this initiative and build training plans that target various work functions, benefiting not just the employee but the organization as well, which can expand its scope with multi-skilled professionals to tackle new areas of the business.
Provide strong support
HR functions have been building “priority teams” that are tasked with ensuring a smooth workflow during crises while managing employees fairly and effectively. The team identifies sustainable practices that keep the company and its employees in sync during trying times, as well as in the long run. These can include check-ins and monitoring of employee health and well-being. In addition, regular emails offering healthy work-from-home tips and highlighting supporting policies and practices will go a long way in combatting the always-on culture, while convincing employees that the company cares for their well-being.
Keep up with having less
Many companies are currently facing budget constraints. Instead of pushing mindless employee activities, HR must adopt innovative ways to continue to provide positivity and fun. Offering free online courses to employees and their families can also be a way of keeping employees connected and engaged.
Showcase compassionate leadership
Among the challenges, HR teams are faced with during these times are managing health and safety, ensuring work continuity, and promoting well-planned and ethical policies. HR needs to constantly showcase its sound leadership by being there for the employees.
Undoubtedly, the end of the pandemic will bring back a different workforce. The COVID-19 crisis will certainly serve as a case study and blueprint for HR professionals around the world to build effective crisis policies and frameworks. Actions taken now will leave a lasting impact on organizations in a post-COVID-19 world. In sync with management leaders, HR can ensure that the organizations remain ahead of the curve.