Survival of the fittest though might be the health slogan today amidst the pandemic situation, but giving this notion to your employees is weakening their morale and productivity.
Employees that have contributed to your company's success and output, today need special fostering. The pandemic has hit everyone hard and the mode of work, schedules, and professionalism have been disrupted to new norms. Remote workplaces were exquisite work policies before the COVID-19 situation, but for the last couple of months, they have been a necessity.
The idea of working from home post-pandemic has not only called for realigning schedules but to restructure policies and procedures that suit the current scenario. As an HR manager, the challenge you have is to redesign a work scenario that will alleviate the morale of the employees and make them feel secure while, we all together cruise through this unprecedented situation.
Today is a no different day from the one last year, only the major chunk of employees is working from home. In this situation, the goals are accomplished, targets are met and employees are cozily working from home. But, is this situation really normal?
As an HR professional, have you tried ascertaining that despite your goals being met, targets accomplished, are your employees working in a cozy setup?
The reality is something else-
- We are all made to work from a makeshift office at home.
- With all the family members around, a struggle for a dedicated place to sit and work is a challenge.
- With kids in the house, professionalism has taken a back stand.
- The makeshift ergonomics has taken a toll on health and one cannot work for long hours.
- Online schooling and online office, the boundaries are often crossed.
- No house helps and hence loads of housework that cannot be left unattended.
- The pressure of delivering work within the stipulated time, balancing the home front is like a hanging dagger all the while.
- The anxiety of being jobless in the prevailing situation.
- The fear and depressing scenario of the health consequences around the world.
All this and more, are accumulating to the mental health of your employees and to add to it, is the social distancing norm that is keeping us all away from our regular life. And in the clutch of all these situations, to keep the employees performing is the task the HR manager has at hand.
Though the signs and symptoms might be unseen, the effects of it are largely felt due to the under-productive currents or a change in the work patterns. This underlying pattern might continue to exist and needs to be nurtured to bring out productivity, as well as to take care of the employees' morale.
In the context of the prevailing situation, an HR manager should try to keep the morale high as well as build team spirit while the employees work from home.
As a business owner, or an HR manager, have you ascertained, how an HRMS should be altered to fit the current scenario?
Come of think of realigning the policies in your HRMS, the second question is how do you measure the effectiveness of it? What are the yardsticks?
Realigning policies should be seen from the point of considering-
- Dedicated work hours
- Flexible work hours
- Weekly offs
- Resource allocation (phone, internet, laptop, etc)
Only when you are giving the basic inputs to the employees will you be able to generate a conducive environment towards an expected output. Building yardsticks for the output will be not as competitive as it was before the covid-19 situation when the working environment was regulated. You need to be sensitive to the fact that employees are working from home and therefore need to be evaluated in a new light.
While speaking to an Insurance professional for renewing a policy last week, I had to tolerate the automated phone message for a good 10 minutes, before I got through to the customer support employee.
The automated message kept asking me to be patient and that the company is performing understaffed, and the staff is working from home.
Finally, someone was online with me and addressing my query. After resorting to my query, the employee was quick to withdraw my details and get me a soft copy of my policy within a span of five minutes. After the call, when I sat back and thought about the whole process, it occurred to me that the employee is backed up with a laptop, a good internet connection, an established phone line as well as a cloud-database that made the document access so swift. I, the client was satisfied with the entire process, but the employee could also deliver, despite working from home, because of the infrastructure and necessary training provided. If my query was not solved, if the TAT was high, I might be an irate client and would have landed up taking the conversation to a different level. After all, it was a question of my health insurance.
These infrastructural backups are a must for an employee working from home, the absence of these would make them feel crippled and also develop low morale.
We have learned to express with emojis after we started chatting, and so communication can be done through any medium if the desire be. Employee communication channels can be built through online events. Why wait for the days when we could enjoy offline? There are event management companies who have adapted the online medium to entertain. Where you celebrated this day and that day offline, let the fun keep rolling as you bring these days online. Contests, campaigns, coupons, costumes, and credits and a lot can be explored online too.
Make this time worth remembering and bring in the employees’ family too to participate. This is an unusual time where you can reach not only to your employee but can make a mark in their family's life too. The automatic effect is a better bonding and attachment towards the company. These activities also ensure much-needed support from the family.
Performance appraisals are the unsaid parameters for evaluation in any organization, however, today are we anywhere supplemented enough to match the performance to a regular office environment? Considering all the unprecedented challenging parameters that might arise working from home, performances need to be evaluated under a new yardstick.
All along with the evaluation, as an HR manager or a leader, demonstrate evaluation in the light of empathy. The state of working from home is not very professional, filled with anxiety and uncertainty. While evaluating empathize as everyone out there might be battling with a mental, health, physical, or financial challenge.
One fundamental lesson from this time is, we have to survive and thus this is not a time to compete or to emerge winners. This is a time to get the task at hand performed and, meet goals healthily and effectively.
Be wary of the situation before demanding work and deadlines, as well as keep a flexible time to affect deadlines, like this is not the end.
Building the right bridges
For a leader or an HR manager, this is the right time to build strong bridges by encouraging employees to share-
- Their challenges, by checking genuinely on their well-being.
- Relaxing on the procedural and system norms.
- Leveraging organizational resources to the benefit of employees.
- Refraining from job and salary cuts.
- Communicating on a different notch to establish better relations.
- Building a culture of open feedback.
- Extending additional benefits and support to overcome family setbacks.
Are you taking care of the employee's mental health?
While everyone is undergoing some or the other setback in these times, with a family member sick, someone losing their job, mounting debts and EMI's, a lifestyle lost, and most of all the pressure of social distancing that is playing on each one's social psyche. While outdoors was common at one point in time, every activity is now confined to home. With screen time increasing and the space shared by family members coinciding, there are chances of emotional turmoil or absolute withdrawals. These symptoms might not shout and crave attention, but needs to be seen in the purview of a distant or non-performing employee. A group or solo counseling sessions can be very encouraging in this scenario. We all are sailing the same boats, experiencing different tides, and therefore the message of, we are all in this situation together should reach to the employees to keep your employees mentally healthy and connected.
How does one recreate a better HRMS ecosystem?
If you are the CEO of an SME or Start-up or the HM manager with an organization, the challenge you all must be facing today is building a sustainable HRMS ecosystem. Then, you should know that this is the time of innovation. We are in a situation that demands new and realigned processes that will nurture our employees to a long-sought future association.
This is the best time to get your employees to attend training. Online sessions have changed the dynamics of a lot of things. Online training means lesser costs as compared to physical training. As employees are now attuned to the online mode of working, online training can be well accepted and reciprocated.
Involve an expert to identify any loopholes in your systems, processes, and work. Impart deliberate knowledge-oriented training to fill in these gaps. Even if there are no possible loopholes, train your employees to better standards as when you resume office operations post-pandemic, your employees are well prepared to bounce back to the routine.
Your employees are not working round the clock in the pursuit of working from home. Respect their time.
Introduce loads of contests and competitions to liven the spirit and bring your employees together, even if it is online.
Corporate gaming groups, something very innovative but a definite de-stressor when your employees come together and play games online. These sessions can be introduced as breaks between regular work sessions.
Give the employees the necessary off, and do not offload work on holidays. The entire world is going slow, you might just miss a deadline, and by doing this have employee distress to their maximum capacity.
Brainstorming towards newer ideas- Engage your employees in brainstorming ideas towards how newer initiatives can be introduced in the organization. Your employees can represent and communicate best on the challenges they are facing.
In case you have started office operations, it should all be diligently controlled and maintained in a hygienic way respecting the social distancing norms.
3. Being Humane to your humans
While the touch and meet aspect is out of the question in this pandemic, at least make efforts to be sensitive to your employee needs. While, the global job scenario is very uncertain if your company can support an additional cost, extend certain special provisions in these times.
- Assure your employees that their jobs are secured.
- Make provisions for health check-up tests for the employee and their family.
- If employees are quarantined or hospitalized, be in touch.
- For employees commuting through public transport, make arrangements for carpooling or another temporary source of transport.
- Guidelines are good, but rules become cumbersome to follow from home, remain flexible to schedules.
- Be empathic to working mother employees and be flexible on their schedules and workloads.
Who has the right?
As a leader, business owner, or an HR manager, you have the right to refine a lot of things in the view of the changing times. Now, how you bring this situation to your credit by creating value for your employees primarily kicks with enhancing the team spirit and employee morale. These are the building blocks that will align your employees not only to its goals and culture but also to the company's beliefs. As a company, you have been with them and nurtured them in thick and thin and that is the lesson they take towards a cumulative growth of themselves with the company.
Be it any size organization, a start-up, an SME, or a corporate, it is imperative to have a flexible HRMS that understands the need of its employees. This is just one challenge we are facing. An environment that facilitates growth and a sense of belonging should be the touchpoint organizations should be sensitive to in the times of pandemic.