Everyone is talking of the “new-normal” in the post-pandemic era. A lot of discussion is going on around what exactly should be the approach for managers to take when their people – all of them – work remotely. Several conflicting opinions are emerging as the situation is novel indeed, and the corporate world already seems to have come up with some consensus around the issue. Most agree that managing will now be more of a motivating and facilitating role rather than a monitoring and supervising one. Managers are trying to adopt, and businesses with ample online infrastructure are just doing fine.
However, in all this conundrum, few words are being spent on the approach HR functions should take when the offices are empty, and everything is remote. Surely, new guidelines will soon emerge and conduct codes are going to be rewritten by the end of this year. But, in the meantime, let us touch upon a few areas where HR would do well to emphasize in this changed scenario.
Just like the manager, all HR professionals would now need to invest more effort towards trust-building. And it is going to be a two-way communication. While the HR functions should accept that their people are trying to do their best working in unaccustomed settings, the employees must reciprocate in action and spirit to maintain that faith.
Communication is going to be crucial in the remote scenario. Employees often get frustrated when they are unable to get ample infrastructural or organisational support when things are not going well. And no one likes to stay in the dark, especially when the situation is not standard. This is the time when HR functions need to go that extra mile to reassure employees by letting them know of every organisational move that might impact day-to-day business – either negatively or positively. Even bad news, when shared in time and with empathy, seems welcome than no news.
Support in Time
The pandemic has affected every sector; hence ancillary support functions that are mostly outsourced nowadays – like payroll, IT support or admin processes like procurement – have also been hit hard. Lack of physical commute owing to prolonged and continual lockdowns, and understaffed call centres due to insufficient transport and distancing guidelines, have increased response time for most service procedures.
Since times are uncertain, employees might get edgy if their support requests are not tended to within what “they” feel is reasonable turnaround time. A software upgrade issue preventing Client delivery, or extended bank closures resulting in deferred salary credit, or perhaps just a delayed SMS notification announcing the credit – each of these might be perceived as an emergency in such troubled times.
While employees must understand the challenges the support functions are facing, it would do a world of good if in every such situation HR communicates proactively – announcing any upgrade or outage activity, or simply acknowledge the delay that is taking place. It is reassuring for the remote employee to know that he/she is not the only one facing the issue and that the organisation is aware of the lapse. This invariably calms down agitated and anxious minds.
All Work and No Play
Since the home itself is now the office, work-life balance demands a new definition – and not just more time at home! HR must take care in reminding the employees that working-from-home is just a change in the work ambience – and all the facilities that are attached with the job still remains the same. Panic induced by the pandemic has led a lot of people to needlessly work beyond office hours, even ifwhenis no practical need for such overtimes. They just want to reassure themselves that their contribution was still being counted, although they are physically absent from office. Such employees should be reminded that it is not only them – the entire office is working from home, and all official rules and facilities still apply. HR should encourage people to avail normal leaves as an when required throughout the year, so that the “office mode” gets is balanced out.
It is best to set clear expectations for this novel situation, so that employees know what the organisation expects from them in the present context. Technology must be exploited to the fullest to make up for the lack of contact. Events and contests for employee engagement can be arranged online as well.
All in all, it will be prudent for Human Resource to focus on the “human” element as the world recuperates.