Covid-19 has spurred several conversations around the new normal expected of workplaces around the world.
At the onset of the pandemic, when work from home was initially implemented, we observed talks of a spike in employee productivity across industries. With reduced travel time to the office, external meetings, lunches etc and the flexibility of operating from home, we were witnessing extra hours at work.
Amidst this, many employees found some footing in balancing work and life, an ideal concept which until recently, remained elusive. Since then, we have seen a great deal of enthusiasm amongst companies in considering virtual or hybrid work approaches as the acceptable new norm.
However, with the global market disruption and a bleak job scenario, the first quarter of 2020 saw a loss of the equivalent to 155 million full-time jobs, a number that increased to 400 million in the second quarter, with lower- and middle-income countries hardest hit (Covid-19 Report - ILO).
In some parts, this has ensued dismayed conversations amongst those holding on to jobs as continual fear, stress and anxiety took precedence with the underlying thought process being a sense of stability from a secure job in these turbulent times.
With this pervading thought process, saying ‘No’ to things has become impossible as many employees now feel. Saying ‘No’ to excessive workload, to long and odd working hours or even resisting against certain kinds of behavior, they fear will evoke negative reactions at work and might even result in their job loss.
Adding to this, Covid-19 is pushing the existing landscape by manifolds with a drastic shift in the scheme of things like changes in work processes, businesses models, change in government regulations and financial conditions, all within a matter of months. As such employees are trying to adapt and keep up with the rapid pace of change. In many places, they are now working long hours and most likely they aren’t technically or mentally prepared for the sudden rush of work that has piled on. They are spending less time with family, even though they are positioned at home now. Some are further unlucky to also face behaviorally tough conditions at work. Amidst this cycle of events, the option of quitting the job has become too far-fetched.
The imperative question we must then ask ourselves is what environment have we created for our employees? If there is even a hint that we’ve lacked empathy, then this should be the opportune time for immediate remedial action.
As HR leaders we are uniquely positioned to create a tipping curve between success and failure of organizations through a simple process, which I refer as CASS:
1. Concerns – It’s important to not assume that the business is doing enough. HR leaders need to draw out the concerns of employees and analyze the information to see if what is being done is adequate.
2. Attention – Drive the attention of the leadership team on the potential business impact and give them an overall view of the burning issues.
3. Support – Fear, pace of change, overwork, burnout, inability to cope up with virtual work, mental health are some of the pervading issues employees are facing at the moment. HR Leaders need to step up to the occasion and help facilitate a strong support system by getting the leadership together using relevant data. All it takes is the right intention and effort to support your employees. The effort or lack of it will define whether the employees are eagerly waiting to leave or are strengthening their bond with the company.
4. Skillset – The new world requires HR leaders to revisit their own skillset and ensure they are equipped to provide the foundation that will be needed for their organisation’s success. For example, with remote working now there is a good chance of employees losing their sense of belonging and their purpose towards the company and running low on morale. As HR leaders, can we replicate the same sense of belonging in a virtual or hybrid world, that we created earlier?
We should all consider carefully that if our employees are part of ‘The Other Reality’, they are in fact being pushed to a desperate position, and could be waiting on for the next best opportunity. However, if they feel they are taken care of, their bond with the organization will only get stronger helping build a steady and motivated workplace.
Call for Business & HR Leaders
With this governing view, it is only apt that Business and HR leaders consider this as an opportunity to improvise, improve and make a difference. And for those of you who already are, thank you for being an inspiration to others.
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