2021 HR Wrap-up

Posted in : HR Updates on 9 December 2021
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered: Coronavirus; Hybrid Working; Mental Healthleg

And here we are approaching another Christmas and on the cusp of a New Year. And what a year 2021 has been with the roll out of the Covid vaccine and booster programme, another lockdown at the start of the year, mounting pressures on the NHS, spend local vouchers for all and vaccine passports. A lot can happen in 12 months!

Here’s a summary of my articles throughout the year for anyone that may want to check them out:


I started the year with a wrap up of 2020; looking back over my articles in what was an undeniably momentous year that will be remembered in history. We will never forget March 2020.


In February we were back in lockdown and I shared some tips on coping with home-working and isolation given the mental health impact of lockdown with suicide levels at an all-time high. The main point in this article was around how we there are so many factors beyond our control. Rather than fret about the future we should spend our time on the things we can positively impact like our wellbeing and friendships.


In March I examined HR Trends during Covid-19 starting with the shift to home-working and increased use of remote-working technology. This was a time when HR had been thrust into the limelight as employers turn to us for answers to the huge uncertainty that prevailed. We were at the forefront of decision-making, facilitating communications, managing concerns and supporting peoples’ emotional and physical wellbeing. And all the while having no manual to turn to!


Seemingly losing one month of my life, we jump two months ahead to May when I examined how to create a mental health strategy in the workplace. With much of people’s time spent at work, the workplace can significantly impact our mental health and wellbeing, both positively and negatively. Without the right culture in place, absence levels are likely to rise while productivity falls, neither of which will help businesses succeed.


In June I wrote about whether or not performance bonuses incentivise employees to work harder in return for a financial reward and in doing so, generate higher levels of productivity. Employers should be mindful that the most powerful motivators are intrinsic, driven by internal desires to succeed which in turn generate discretionary effort and high-performance working. When people love the work they do, motivation levels are high, yet in some cases pay may be low. Volunteering is a classic example of this.


By half-way through the year, I had completed part of my Mental Health First Aid training so with my newfound knowledge I wrote about spotting the signs of mental health issues, and what to do about them. Creating a culture of trust and openness to talk is one of the first steps in our journey towards creating this culture. There are many reasons why we need to look out for our colleagues. Aside from our moral obligations, we also have a duty of care towards our people. A happy, healthy workforce will be more productive and lead to less absence and presenteeism. It also sends a clear message to current and prospective employees that they matter and are valued.


This article explored pros and cons of hybrid working. By August, the hybrid working model had become much more common place. It is generally accepted that 100 per cent remote working is not conducive to effective working in many organisations and as such a blended approach offers the ideal compromise. Hybrid working is an effective attraction and retention tool, but employers should be mindful of the potential challenges hybrid working can bring and should not rush into rolling it out without proper consideration of how to mitigate any downsides.


In September I tackled the issue of how to overcome recruitment difficulties further to a 63% increase in firms who were facing recruitment challenges from quarter one of the year.  We need to understand what motivates candidates to change jobs being mindful that money is only one influencing factor. Culture and values play a key role in both attracting and retaining talent and should be widely promoted. It is essential that we do this in an authentic manner as if not, new hires will catch on quickly, become disillusioned and leave, sharing their bad experience with others. A great reputation on the other hand, will be a powerful draw for candidates and will also retain your existing talent


In October I wrote howwe can measure employee engagement levels through the right metrics. Whether we’re at the start of our employee engagement journey or have a robust engagement strategy already embedded, it is essential that there are baseline metrics in place from which we can measure the return on investment on any engagement interventions undertaken. There is no magic formula for employee engagement, but many organisations now recognise that it is something that should be considered at Board level and built into the strategic objectives of the organisation. Not only will employees be more fulfilled at work, but it will positively impact the organisation too, hence why it cannot be left to chance.


In November I offered suggestions on how employers can support their employees in the wake of a bereavement. I also spoke on this very topic at the Annual Review during one of the panel discussions. Given that a significant proportion of employees do not feel they receive a compassionate response from their employer when they suffer a bereavement and a high proportion take sickness absence, it is clear that aside from a policy, there is a need for improved training to support staff and to communicate effectively and regularly with bereaved employees. Line managers in particular play an important role in influencing a grieving employee’s experience of the workplace. There is no doubt that as a society we struggle with death and how to respond to it. By simply asking the employee how they are coping after the loss of their loved one is a simple yet powerful approach to providing that person with the opportunity to talk. It also shows you care. Showing genuine concern and actively listening to them can really help that person come to terms with their loss. It is simply not acceptable to avoid the subject, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel.

And so, after another unforgettable year, that’s a wrap, as they say.

Counting my blessings and wishing you more.

Here’s to a healthy, prosperous New Year 2022!

And remember, you are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream – C.S. Lewis.

If you are interested in catching up with any of my articles you’ll find them on the Legal Island website here.


This article is correct at 09/12/2021

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

The main content of this article was provided by Olga Pollock. Contact telephone number is +44 (0)79 7389 3448 or email oppollock@firmusenergy.co.uk

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