What Coronavirus Means for HR and the New Normal At Work

Over the last decade, I’ve written extensively about things that have, or might, disrupt the way we communicate, learn and work. One thing that I’ve often commented on is the increase in full-time workers who work alongside gig workers, digital assistants, and even bots. In the run-up to the pandemic, the world of work was already changing dramatically, yet the pace of change is set to increase even more. Please see here for Orchard House Solutions the best of the best in HR and business management.

One thing that I failed to consider was how much time we would spend working from home over the course of 2020 and 2021. For the first time, many office workers were forced to juggle homeschooling obligations, the technical challenges of two people working from home, and managing communication in new ways.

COVID-19 has made us reconsider how we work, shop, communicate, learn, and even exercise. For many people, the question of where we work is something that has gone from being a complete non-issue to a life-changing decision.

The pandemic also brought the term VUCA back into public understanding. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. It was first popularized by the Army War College in 1987, but was largely forgotten until we had a VUCA event in the coronavirus. In just a few weeks, restaurants, gyms, shops, and bars all over the country were shut down. According to some statistics, in the first lockdown around 88% of workers started working from home, even if they were not showing symptoms of the coronavirus themselves.

The impact of the lockdown on companies of all sizes was huge. Companies had hiring freezes, and around 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits because they were either released, or temporarily unable to work.

But now the pandemic appears to be drawing to a close, there’s the question of what the future of working might look like. How will the lessons learned during the pandemic shape our working futures? There are some things that appear to be common across a large number of HR departments:

1 – Investment into training and remote working

At the start of COVID, companies encouraged their employees to work from home and provided support to enable them to do so. Many professionals struggled with the challenges of working while also educating their children, and found themselves faced with technical challenges too.

Because of this, many employers are now considering training in remote work. That training could include things like technical issues, work/life balance, and even communications. It’s hard to transition from working in an office to working in a home environment where there are many distractions, but having clear guidance and mentorship from a supportive HR department can make all the difference.

2 – More support and focus on wellbeing

Investing in your employee’s well-being can help reduce turnover, improve morale and boost productivity. Businesses that invest in their employees are more likely to succeed long-term, and should attract higher quality staff too.

Remote working presents some challenges in terms of well-being, because bosses don’t have contact with workers, and it’s hard to tell how the worker is doing in terms of socialization, managing work/life balance, and dealing with stress. When someone’s office is also their living room, it can be hard for them to shut off and relax for a while at the end of the day.

During COVID-19, the sudden and unexpected nature of the emergency meant workers were given a laptop and left to do as they pleased, but now that we’ve had more than a year to adapt, it’s important to start thinking about everything from ergonomics and healthy office environments, to setting communication policies that help people stay mentally healthy.

For many companies, this will be the first time their HR documents have taken into account the possibility of an employee spending more time working remotely than they do sat at a desk in the office. There’s a first time for everything.