"How to manage employees through a pandemic" probably wasn't a module that many HR professionals covered during their training...
And yet, it's precisely these professionals who have been able to come up with real-time solutions to help workers remain safe and productive, and have kept businesses active through some of the most uncertain times any of us have ever lived through.
Organisations have had to change and adapt in order to protect employees and keep businesses operational; this has resulted in a shift to a remote working model that many workers aren't keen to abandon just yet.
At the onset of COVID-19, HR teams and company leaders may have been hopeful that the contingency measures put in place would only be temporary. However, the world is looking like a vastly different place now that some of us are starting to come out at the other end of lockdown.
There'll be numerous challenges when it comes to reintegrating individuals back into the workplace, following government guidelines as they continuously adapt to the evolving situation, and giving fair treatment and consideration to workers who now have issues around childcare or shielding.
It's essential to take a long-term view as to what HR management will look like in the future and you can continue to support and engage your employees. Here’s some things to consider:
For some organisations, allowing employees to work from home has been a bit like letting go of the reigns. Will people remain productive? How will we oversee what everyone is doing?
The truth is, many employees have been longing to work from home and have welcomed the opportunity. The flexibility has allowed workers to save time and money on commuting, create a better work-life balance by spending more time on personal activities that help them feel more in control of their households, their health and wellbeing, and relationships.
There's a strong argument for the benefits of working from home too; in fact, remote workers are up to 25% more productive than their on-site counterparts.
From a business perspective, this can allow companies to make significant savings on their office space and also provides access to a much large talent pool outside of their geographical limitations. HR teams may find themselves conducting more interviews online and setting new guidelines and process for on-boarding employees remotely.
Organisations wanting to keep their people safe by limiting office occupancy numbers will be further encouraged to allow more flexibility. In cases where physical locations remain open, HR will have to work closely with operation teams to adjust floor plans in order to accommodate social distancing measures, while still allowing employees to collaborate and communicate freely.
The crisis has shed significant light on the necessity to upskill our employees' continuously. If you had already invested in a training and development programme before the pandemic, you should firmly hold onto this initiative and adapt it for virtual learning where possible.
Groups and classroom scenarios may no longer be possible in a physical space, but there's no reason why lessons can't move to online platforms and continue to be engaging and beneficial for employees.
Whether you're helping your people embrace the essential technology to enable efficient remote work, or providing subject-specific courses that help them become more skilled and proficient in their roles, helping employees to fulfil their potential is essential to keep your company innovative and productive.
human contact is still key
There's no denying that working and living in isolation has taken its toll on many of us. We are, after all, social creatures.
If your company is going to stick to the remote working model, it's essential to create a structure that encourages conversation, collaboration, and teamwork. You've worked long and hard to build a thriving workplace culture and there's no reason why your efforts should be sidelined now.
To keep the morale up, teams should organise virtual events where they can have more casual meetings and informal conversations that help them feel connected to one another.
Digital tools such as Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams can be used to have face to face interactions without necessarily being in the same room. We all know that emails can be misinterpreted, particularly when they're fired off in a hurry. Encourage employees to have video calls instead; facial expressions and tone of voice help us to interpret communication much better and preserve amicable and healthy workplace relationships.
impact on employee benefits
51% of HR professionals are anticipating an increase in mental health issues – something that's by no means surprising. Lockdown has been challenging and traumatic for many individuals. Whether it's battling with the virus itself, or the prolonged months of uncertainty and isolation, not everyone may be feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when resuming site-based work or continuing to work from home.
HR teams will have to ramp up support and make sure that remote employees receive adequate attention and help. Part of the effort in boosting health and wellbeing will be to help people create boundaries between work and personal time. Encourage employees to understand that they are not obliged to work beyond their contracted hours and should take up activities that make them feel good and keep them healthy.
If you don't already have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), now may be a great time to introduce one.
These programmes are specifically designed to offer discreet and comprehensive assistance to individuals in several areas such as financial support, health and wellbeing tip, and even legal matters. When times are tough, employees can tap into a wealth of informative resources to help them cope, or speak to trained specialists who can offer confidential advice.
To get even more engagement, an employee rewards programme can also be introduced. Individuals can earn points for being consistent with their training, going above and beyond in their roles, or smashing through their targets. Colleagues can also offer recognition to one another through nominations and personalised notes that give shout outs where they are due.
60% of companies are now looking to enhance their wellbeing initiatives and offer a higher level of support to employees. With the prevalence of remote working, your rewards programme will become an integral part of how you communicate company updates, introduce new concepts, and help workers to learn. You can adapt your programme so that it offers support in the areas that your employees need it the most.
With many households having furloughed or retrenched family members, budgets may be stretched - use your programme to offer discounts and vouchers that can help them get more from their spend. Encourage healthier habits with cycle to work schemes, and make the rewards personalised so that remote workers can still feel appreciated and seen as individuals..
how we can support you through covid-19
Undoubtedly, there are many more changes that will come about as a result of the pandemic. Some will be positive steps towards making workplaces safer, healthier and more supportive of employees. Other changes may be more challenges and will require company leaders, HR teams, and employees to work closely together to navigate through the new regulations and standards being put forth.
Sodexo is here to offer guidance and practical solutions to companies that are looking to provide more support to employees at this time. We'll help you create the right plan for your people and your company's needs, within the realms of your budget. Get in touch with us for a no-obligation conversation about what we can do to make sure your HR team is prepared for the future.