Over the past nine months, working practices have changed radically for many organisations and these changes are likely to have a long-term impact. Working from home requests, mental health issues, and flexibility are set to be key HR themes for the future – but what else should HR consider moving forward?
The pandemic has forced many of the more traditional industries, such as the legal sector, into new ways of working and for most it has been a success. Organisations have found that, overall, employees can be trusted and are just as focused when they are working from home. Many are therefore allowing the flexibility to continue and are updating employment contracts to reflect this.
In terms of recruitment, we’re going to have a generation that has developed throughout the pandemic. The degree of flexibility they are currently experiencing in terms of working hours and remote working will become the norm. In the future, it may prove more difficult for businesses that don’t offer remote working to attract the right candidates.
When it comes to recruiting and onboarding staff, communicating the culture and personality of an organisation can be more challenging in a remote environment and therefore different ways to bring the team together will need to be found. It can also be harder to foster a sense of loyalty and team spirit in staff that are working apart. Keeping remote staff loyal when there are no face to face weekly team meetings or regular socials is definitely a challenge.
Investment in IT
There will inevitably need to be a greater focus on the management of staff and investment in IT infrastructure so that staff aren’t invisible when they’re working remotely. Businesses will need to ensure they have a balance between managing staff but also maintaining trust in their employees. Having staff under constant monitoring will not create the best culture and there will always have to be a degree of trust HR will have to manage an employee’s shift in understanding that remote working is just a change in location and not necessarily a change in working hours and responsibilities.
Long-term Impact of the Pandemic
Many employees have already suffered mental health issues as a result of the pandemic and this is likely to increase as some employees deal with feelings of isolation when working from home. On the other hand, some employees might feel that working from home results in less pressure and stress. While some relish a daily commute as it allows them time to prepare for the day ahead and time to distance it before arriving home, others loathe the drudgery of it. People respond to situations very differently, so HR will need to be on hand to offer support and guidance.
Handling grievances has already begun to change as a result of the pandemic; having a casual word with someone in the office and nipping things in the bud will become more difficult. More formal phone calls and video meetings will need to be arranged instead. Email exchanges can often be misread but on the flipside, personality clashes are less likely to occur over video and email.
The pandemic has presented the worst-case scenario and HR has stepped up to deal with it. Should another challenge occur in the future, it will be more prepared and better place to deal with such unique circumstances.