The Global Pandemic; What's There To Be Thankful About?Posted in : HR Updates on 6 November 2020 Issues covered: Coronavirus; Flexible Working; Employee Well-being; Remote Working
With the dark nights now upon us, a global pandemic, circuit breaker and news of a further lockdown in England it can be difficult not to feel down at times. Never-ending news stories of doom and gloom have predominated our TVs, radios and social media channels for months now as the second surge of this awful pandemic takes hold. Undoubtedly, there are terrible things happening right now but in the spirit of gratitude and in an effort to shift my negative mindset I brainstormed some of the positive side effects of the several-months-long lockdown. Here’s what I came up with:
The pandemic has forced thousands of office-based workers home to work remotely. Despite claims of the mental health impact of isolation, research shows that remote workers are generally more productive, happier and less stressed which leads to significant positive effects on their work. For employers, now is the time to take stock and consider the possibility of flexible working arrangements on a longer-term basis. Would this open our organisations up to a wider talent pool of candidates seeking greater flexibility around say, caring responsibilities or simply the ability to fit daily tasks around work? Such flexibility is a highly desirable benefit and often ranks above that of higher salaries or gym memberships for example.
More Skilled Workers
Suddenly being thrust into new ways of working has inevitably forced the majority of workers to be resilient in the face of increased demands to rethink and reshape working practices and service delivery. Employers dropped in at the deep end have had to quickly hone their problem-solving, decision-making and innovation skills. Not being together under one roof has also required extra effort by all to ensure that everyone knows what they are doing, what stage they are at and when deadlines are due. Communication skills, both written and verbal have had to improve as we rely more on email and video technology to connect with each other.
In HR alone, we have had to avail of technology and video conferencing for meetings, interviews, inductions, training and onboarding that traditionally would have been carried out on in person. HR have had to be at the fore of decision-making and relied upon to advise on many new and complex matters such as furlough / job retention schemes, health and safety matters and employee rights - not to mention the creation of new policies around self-isolation, holiday pay and leave, sick pay and remote working. Some of us may have been involved in managing redundancies and lay offs and have had to work with key stakeholders to initiate business continuity measures and take the lead on suitable and regular staff communications, both verbal and written. We have also had to help create strategies around remote working and to encourage a safe and gradual return to the office during the summer months before ‘putting the brakes on again’ as infection rates began to creep up in recent weeks. And all of this on top of our business as usual activities.
Overall, it is clear that employers have had to develop their agility and adaptability skills amidst the raft of ever-changing government guidelines and restrictions.
Ironically, social distancing has in many respects brought us closer together and we are now more effective at working collaboratively than ever before. Being locked away in our own homes has given us a better appreciation of teamwork everyone’s role within that.
A Spotlight on Mental Health
With suicide rates at an all-time high, employers have had to be innovative in their approach to mental health strategies to ensure that remote teams stayed connected with their colleagues. Mental health and resilience are arguably more important now than ever before, forcing employers to take a critical look at the wellbeing interventions on offer to staff. Whether through Zoom quizzes, wellbeing webinars, online health checks, promotion of EAP services, creation of remote working guides, virtual marathons and so on, the main thing is that we have been forced to think innovatively about how we can boost morale and general health during one of the worst health crises of our lifetime.
Improved Financial Health
Many of us have saved money on food, travel, childcare and even office attire due to remote working. Such is a welcome boost during times of future financial uncertainty. It may even lead to increased employee satisfaction and engagement in the process.
No matter what positives we think have come out of the worst of circumstances it is clear that these are not simply by chance. It has been necessary for employers to adopt a more dynamic and responsive, taking one-day-at-a-time approach whilst also being mindful of the bigger picture. We need to consider the positives and keep doing what we are doing well. Such challenges have brought new innovative ways of working, many of which we can hold on to. The pandemic has fundamentally shifted what we believe to be normal and the impact will be felt for a long time to come.
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