“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It isn’t often the entire world simultaneously has the same experience. Living through the COVID-19 pandemic is something we all have in common and, unfortunately, it continues to wreak havoc on our lives. We must remember it will eventually go away, and it’s not too soon to start thinking about the lessons learned from dealing with the pandemic.
Lesson #1 – Remote work is a new reality.
The workplace and how work is done does not remotely (no pun intended) resemble what was the norm in January 2020. A report from the Society for Human Resource Management and Oxford Economics showed that 64% of salaried and 49% of hourly employees are working remotely most of the time, up from 3% and 2% in January 2020. To stay afloat, companies had to take a very quick and deep dive into remote work and figure out how to make it work. Although there were hiccups, challenges and setbacks along the way, most companies now have a well-established technological infrastructure and communication and management processes in place to effectively work remotely. Going forward, workplaces are likely to see a rise in the number of remote workers and employees requesting flexible work arrangements. It is expected more remote working requests will be granted given leadership has now gained confidence in employees’ performance and productivity in remote working arrangements.
Lesson #2 – Downsize and declutter.
With the decline in the number of employees working onsite, companies have realized the need for less office space or maybe none at all. Why not save money by leasing less square footage and making better use of working space, resulting in substantial cost savings? While in the mindset of “less is more,” companies should also examine their work processes and streamline and declutter where possible. Some companies have learned their “pre-COVID” processes weren’t necessarily working and have had to make adjustments to quickly clear the deck and focus on the end game. Also, processes that may have worked at the beginning of the pandemic, may need tweaking now, six months later. The flexibility companies offered employees at the beginning of the pandemic provided them a chance to regroup and work differently, keeping them engaged. Are those same processes still having the intended outcome?
Lesson #3 – We are social beings.
Before we all became masters of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, lack of interaction with coworkers led many employees to feelings of isolation and depression. Videoconferencing technology is essential to team collaboration, but can also be used to try and mitigate the gap in connectivity many are feeling in the absence of watercooler talk, working lunches and other informal face-to-face interactions. Some companies host virtual happy hours and other social video conferencing meetups to keep employees feeling connected and social.
Lesson #4 – There are a lot of fish in the sea.
With the normalization of remote work came a widened talent pool. Recruiters are no longer limited to searching for talent in a specific geographic area which greatly expands their pool of qualified employees. Employers can implement a more inclusive recruitment strategy including individuals of varying socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds when not restricted to a certain locale that isn’t attractive or maybe affordable to some.
Lesson #5 – Cybersecurity remains a real issue.
Many remote employees rely on public Wi-Fi and personal devices to conduct their work making them vulnerable to cyberattacks. OpenVPNInc, a provider of next-generation secure communication services, surveyed 250 IT leaders to gain an understanding of their views of cybersecurity as it relates to remote employees. 90% of respondents believe remote employees pose a security risk in general, and 54% believe that remote employees pose a greater security risk than onsite employees. Further, even though remote employees receive confidential business data to their remote locations, GetApp reports less than half of remote employees to receive proper internet security training. With remote work becoming the norm, cybersecurity will continue to be a priority for organizations.
Lesson #6 – Communication is key.
What’s worse than dealing with a pandemic? Dealing with a pandemic not knowing if your office is open, if you are allowed to work remotely, if your health insurance covers COVID-19 testing or if your laptop computer can access the company’s intranet. COVID-19 hit us with many unknowns. Knowing your company is “on top of it” shouldn’t be one. Companies with a crisis plan in place pre-pandemic hit the ground running with much less disruption to business operations. Others without a crisis plan, wasted valuable time establishing viable communication networks with employees to resume operations.
Lesson #7 – HR’s role is crucial and valuable.
Since the pandemic hit, HR has been in the spotlight as HR staff had to act and lead with agility. HR was integral in facilitating the change in the way in which we work and communicate in the workplace. HR has played a crucial role in virtually every business decision made as a result of COVID-19’s impact on the workplace. From making the transition to remote work, to ensuring employees have the resources required for their physical and mental health, to making very difficult decisions regarding furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts. There is no question HR played a critical role in supporting and leading companies through this monumental ordeal. When the dust settles, let there be no question that HR has earned its spot at the C-suite table as a part of the executive management team.
Your Smart HR Partner
These have been uncertain and troubling times for many, both personally and professionally. Early on in this pandemic, Smart HR understood it could possibly minimize the anxiety many of our clients and colleagues felt by serving as a resource for current COVID-19-related information through our weekly blogs. Smart HR is committed to helping our clients through difficult times and watching them thrive in better times ahead. If there is any way in which our Smart HR consultants can help you manage remote employees, develop a crisis management plan, stay abreast of changing employment laws or assist with a corporate restructuring, call us today.