Even as the entire world struggles to contain the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) pandemic, business organizations across the globe are coping with their own challenges resulting from this global crisis. These challenges range from significant declines in demand to stalled supply chains and loss of productivity during the current crisis. The biggest challenge being faced by organizations is to minimize the risk of exposure of their employees to this disease while continuing to maintain their operations. All organizations have put their Business Continuity Plans (BCP) into operation, asking their employees to work from home, work in staggered shifts and allowing only the most critical employees to work from the office or factory premises. In several cases, organizations have shut down their entire offices and have got their complete workforce to work from home. Many organizations especially those in the technology and outsourcing industry have had employees working from home or from remote locations for many years now. For others who have been slow in terms of adoption of such practices, this was a rude wakeup call. These organizations have struggled to make the necessary arrangements to enable employees to work from home during this crisis.
Though things might slowly come back to normal once the crisis subsides, we have good reasons to believe that when it does,0 it will be a new normal for organizations and how they work. This crisis will leave behind many valuable lessons that will have a significant impact on the work culture of almost every organization quite significantly. In fact, many experts are of the opinion that this outbreak may actually be responsible for bringing about lasting changes in the way organizations manage their workforce.
Life after Corona
COVID-19 is already forcing most organizations to alter the work schedules for their workforce and provide them with alternatives that better suit the current scenario. Rather than suffering from major business losses due to employees being unable to come to the workplace regularly, organizations have implemented work from home policies to stay functional during this crisis.
Any decision to this effect is sure to have both short and long term impacts on the working of the employees. In fact, many HR experts are of the opinion that the coronavirus pandemic might actually have provided organizations with a golden opportunity to test various options they might just have not considered till now for improving the productivity and the satisfaction of the workforce.
1. Work from Home Policy
Many organizations have been allowing a small percentage of their employees to work from home long before the COVID-19 crisis on a personal need basis. However, in the current scenario, organizations are being forced to reduce the number of employees coming to the workplace by more than half or even close down the workplaces for an indefinite period of time. In this situation, permitting the employees to work from home can help reduce business losses significantly.
It will also help organizations gain the best understanding of the effectiveness of adopting this policy on a long term basis. They will be able to ascertain the impact of providing such freedom to the employees on the productivity of the employees vis-à-vis the costs of setting up and maintaining physical workplaces for all employees. Due to the time saved in commuting from home to office and back, the employee might actually become more productive from home and also be able to manage work-life balance better, leading to higher employee satisfaction.
Many organizations will get an opportunity to test waters with work from home or remote working during this crisis and be able to do a cost-benefit analysis, which helps them to shape their policies in the long term.
2. Digital Workplace
The lockdown or the shutdown over several weeks will make organizations sit up and think about investing in digital work tools much more seriously; especially those organizations that have lagged behind in this aspect. Employees especially those who are older and haven’t really adopted the digital ways of working as much, will be initiated into it and will start a slow process of adoption. As a result, the workplace will become much more digitally savvy and unnecessary paperwork will be reduced. Meetings, discussions and even presentations might be conducted online even after the crisis ends. Employees will be much more comfortable interacting with each other remotely using digital methods.
Digital working is important not just for tiding over crisis situations like this but also for increasing overall efficiency and productivity of the workforce. Hence, organizations will look start looking at the complete digitization of business processes and faster adoption of digital work tools going forward.
3. Flexible Work Timings
Another strategy that organizations have been implementing for a long time but only for a small segment of their employees is providing flexible work timings. In the current crisis, organizations are asking employees to come to the office on alternate days or even alternate weeks until the pandemic subsides. In some organizations, work timings are also getting staggered for different sets of employees.
The current situation gives the organizations an opportunity to asses the effectiveness of flexible work timings from the perspective of productivity as well as employee convenience. Based on the results, they will be able to formulate a flexible work policy, which essentially means allowing employees to choose their work hours as per their convenience. The members of the workforce could be allowed to come to the office early or leave early, to work in the late evening or night shifts, based on their convenience and personal needs without impacting their work. This policy can help attract and retain employees who need such flexibility in their schedules.
4. Higher Employee Engagement
There is no doubt about the fact that this is one of the most difficult times for the entire human race. In these testing times, organizations have come forward and supported the members of their workforce by minimizing their risk of exposure to this deadly disease and allowing them to work from home or giving them leaves as much as possible. Most employees are likely to remember this humanitarian gesture of their employers for many years to come and it will help in strengthening their commitment and dedication towards their organization.
Also, organizations have engaged in an open and transparent dialogue with their employees apprising them of the situation continuously and taking feedback and inputs from them whenever needed. This has definitely brought the organization and the employees closer, as they share the common goal of keeping the business up and running while minimizing the risks of exposure.
5. Positive Impact on Work Culture
Despite implementing remote working policies, employees have collaborated effectively during these times of crisis. They have been more understanding and supportive of each other. Employees have helped each other in using digital work tools and working remotely. This has helped reduce the gap between the different generations of employees within the workforce, as the younger generation of employees have helped the older generation with the nuances of digital working, while the older generation has provided reassurance to the younger ones on managing such crisis situations based on their years of experience. Also, being on the digital platform, the communication between team members and across teams becomes much faster and transparent, leading to more positive and open work culture.
While the world is still coming to terms with this deadly virus outbreak, the crisis will eventually end. However, it will leave behind a lot of important lessons for the entire humanity. Organizations too will have a lot to learn from this, which will impact how they run and manage their businesses in the future and how their workplaces operate.