The pandemic asked every workforce to react quickly. For many organisations, it meant furloughing employees and adapting to home working – for some, it meant halting operations completely.
Whatever short-term changes you were forced to make, there’s a good chance some will translate to long-term shifts now that people are returning to the office.
We can’t be certain about what your workforce will look like from here on – it’ll naturally differ depending on your sector, demographic of employees, and line of work. But there are at least three post-pandemic trends few HR leaders will be able to ignore.
1. Flexible working: You’ll need to adapt to new employee demands
As lockdowns extended throughout 2020, employees started to see the benefits of home working. In July, a Lenovo survey of the global workforce found nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents felt they were more productive working from home than when they were in the office.
Forced exposure to different working styles has left many employees looking for greater flexibility in their roles or their hours as they begin their return to the workplace. And employers that can’t meet these desires might find their top talent leaving for more flexible companies.
Big-name brands like PwC are already showing the way for flexible working, offering employees the chance to work from home a few days a week and start as early or late as they like. There’s no doubt that employees will benefit from the shift towards greater freedom, but it’ll create new challenges for HR leaders.
You’ll need to ensure you have a reliable, cloud-based system for employees to track their working hours and locations, so every manager knows where their team members are and when they’re contactable. And if you haven’t already, it’ll be worth investing in an easy-to-use communication platform to keep your teams connected – whether it’s just used for quick messaging, like Slack, or it’s an entire collaboration platform like Office 365.
2. Workplace safety: Your employees will expect changes to their workplace
While many employees will spend more time at home in their working week, some will still want or need to be back in their place of work, and you’ll need to make some adjustments to ensure it’s a safe environment.
Some employees have already expressed anxieties about returning to the workplace; CIPD’s Good Work Index reportrevealed that 21% of employees currently going into their normal place of work aren’t satisfied with their employer’s health and safety measures. If your business doesn’t meet the expectations of their employees – and the safety measures recommended by the Health and Safety Executive – your company may face litigation from concerned workers.
Fortunately, many of these measures will be easy for most organisations to put in place, like maintaining social distancing between employees, regularly cleaning workspaces, and ensuring proper ventilation in all indoor spaces.
Some measures will be more challenging to navigate, like offering sick pay for COVID-19 isolation, enforcing vaccine passports, and encouraging lateral flow testing for your workforce. As ACAS reports, there’s currently no legal requirement for employers to test staff for COVID-19 or enforce vaccines, but it might make some employees feel more comfortable as they readjust to life in a shared workplace.
Whatever decisions you make, it’ll be critical that you establish clear company policies for your organisation and communicate them effectively with every employee, no matter whether they’re working remote or returning to their daily commute. You should also be prepared to change these policies as case laws are introduced.
3. Performance management: You may need a new way to track career progression
If you start offering employees flexible working opportunities, spreading your workforce across disparate locations, your business will face new challenges around tracking performance and career progression. And if you fail to tackle them, both employees and line managers are likely to suffer.
A recent LinkedIn survey found that 86% of workers felt the need to prove to bosses they are working hard and deserve to keep their jobs. What’s more, Owl labs remote working survey revealed that 65% of employee managers are concerned about the career implications of employees working remotely.
The specific performance management and career progression challenges you face will depend on the sector you operate in, your company’s current progression structure, and your company culture. For example, if your line managers rely on spotting talent ‘on the shop floor’, you’ll need to find alternative ways for employees to prove their skills.
With a cloud-based performance management platform, you can offer employees the chance to submit evidence of their performance and track it against specific career progression goals. It’ll also help your line managers track team performance against company objectives to ensure everyone is on the right track.
Need help navigating the impact of COVID-19?
As an HR leader, you have a big responsibility to help your business adapt to the long-term impacts of the pandemic – but you don’t need to face the challenge alone.