As many of us start to slowly emerge from weeks and months of lockdown, many large companies are working out how we return to offices, factories, restaurants, and large commercial spaces. For many, the dialogue has shifted from self-isolation and lockdown to focusing on social distancing and the growing opportunity of contact-tracing as we work out what the new normal looks in our workplace. We already saw how relevant location was during the rapid spread of COVID-19, but now, as the curve wipes out in many countries – location analytics has an important role to play, and back-to-work strategies revolve around one keyword “social distancing”. Of course, for many returning to work – it won’t be a question of a corporate office. We are also seeing other industries such as manufacturing, events, and hospitality turning to indoor solutions to understand how they can monitor and analyze people’s flow.
It is important to promote a climate of calm within the employees at the same time engaging leadership to respond with timely, accurate, assertive, and consistent communication from all levels of the organization. In addition to this, all sort of communication needs to be honest, open, and as transparent as possible to maintain credibility among employees. The approach should always come from a place of empathy and understanding of the different impacts these situations can have on people, from the physical to the mental wellbeing of people. Staff is our most asset, and we need to look at our mission and our people together.
Socialization plays a key role in both, individual and societal learning, development, and even survival. In times like these, traditional workplaces have been substituted with virtual ones, triggering anxiety and emotional isolation not for many but for few people. Working from home over a prolonged period brings its own unique challenges, whether you’re a caregiver or simply because we are all used to being around others during the workday, it is unsettling and overwhelming, to say the least.
With technological advancement, moreover, connectivity, and coordination are not even a bigger task when working remotely. Meetings are now being conducted over a call or video chat. Even the employees, management, and clients are now witnessing how effective working from home can be with the help of technology. This could potentially lead to a major shift in the way business will be conducted, with remote working and virtual meetings becoming a usual norm even after the spread of the virus has eradicated.
Major areas of concern were:
The major concern which we face mainly is about communicating the company’s stance and policies on the COVID-19 situation to its employees. Several unreliable news or unverified information about the pandemic is spreading via online platforms, which is heightening the sense of anxiety and fear among employees. Given the fact that offices are now completely working remotely, the company cannot communicate face-to-face with its employees, which could increase the sense of distance from the top management and thus from what the company thinks. It may create a communication gap between management and employees.
Another area of concern relates to maintaining employee morale and wellbeing throughout this work from the home period. Without physical proximity, activities like team events or open discussions are no longer possible. To some extent, it decreases the personal touch between employees, which makes it harder for employers to connect with their teams and help boost their spirits. Ensuring that employees feel connected, supported, and informed during this difficult phase of remote work was a hassle task.
Managing Remote Work
The transition to remote work culture is not as easy as it seems. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, less than 50% of companies had a remote work policy/program. Now almost all sorts of industries regardless of their team size & revenue are rushing to build remote work strategies. This sudden unpredictable transition has its own undiscovered problems. We are trying to build seamless policies and strategies to overcome the challenges which follow this transition. The main highlight of this scenario is that strategies and policies are no more designed periodically or in advance but in real-time. The focus on employee productivity and engagement has shifted to immediate concern & responses. To provide employees with the right remote working tools and also gather real-time updates from them from time to time to untangle the intricacies is a major area of concern.
Some of the prudent HR measures being taken are:
Keeping Employees Informed
Through regular conversations with managers, virtual team meetings & Town Hall meetings we meant to make employees informed and aligned from a business standpoint. We focus on open communication channels to regularly share ways for employees to cope, build resilience, and care for themselves and their families. We keep employees updated about the company’s crisis mitigation plans, along with guidelines of what is being done to support various stakeholders through virtual meetings or stand up meetings. Which will help employees reduce their feeling of helplessness or hopelessness?
Enabling Well-being While Working from Home
We had induced restriction of all non-essential travel, with nearly 100% of employees being enabled to work from home and thus maintain social distance and for this teleworking has been systematically introduced to protect our employees from various impacts of these current scenarios.
At times like this, keeping employee morale up through regular motivation and recognition is more important than ever and we achieve this through virtual communication platforms like town hall events which bring all employees together for some point in time. Because morale of employees determines customer engagement which directly impacts the business results. People need to be taken into confidence otherwise, even a well-intended action may backfire, because that working from home gives employees additional accountability and that the company trusts them to make the best use of that accountability.
Fun activities, games, or videos of how others are coping with remote working helps others feel a sense of community and with the help of our recreational committee members, we were able to conduct frequent events virtually which keeps employees engaged and connected also brings a feeling of belongingness. We organize mission-driven games to encourage employees to come together to overcome a common challenge. Because Regular fun events will make employees feel connected while they work from home.
HR Policies and Procedure
Companies are re-looking at their HR manual and assessing if there is a need to incorporate certain changes/ realign the policies to deal with such situations in the future. We are also planning to come with a set of processes and policies for work from home which is in the final stage of implementation. This will ensure not only the safety and security of the employees but the organization’s growth as well.
Employee Health and Safety Is Our Priority
For ensuring the safety of our employees we had circulated the office operational guidelines/workplace place guidelines to all employees who are returning to work after the lockdown period. We had taken the utmost care for the health and safety of our employees.
People are the greatest resources in every organization as for our organization also. Attracting and retaining the right talent are some of the key management practices which contribute to the success of an organization. It takes a long time for an organization to build an employer brand. Every HR measure should be carefully considered and analyzed through 3 dimensions – the employee, the cost-benefit as well as the legal. The main role of HR is to be redefined from Hiring & Recruitment and Appraisals to New Working Models, Performance-Centric Compensation Restructuring, Managing Cost Optimization and Reduction exercises without damaging employer branding, and play a decisive role in the long term survival of the business.
COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis that is testing both professional and personal relations around the world. It is the responsibility of each employee to put in their utmost effort and maintain smooth business relations. Even though certain concerns may initially slow down progress but steady and positive communication from all parties will help to maintain everyone’s morale and keep employee relations intact as the world moves through this unpredictable crisis.