“Every great change is preceded by chaos.” – Deepak Chopra
In the past several months, companies have faced unique challenges related to COVID-19. We now understand that the pandemic is likely to change the landscape of what work looks like as we shift into a new normal. While we have made a lot of changes to how HR works and supports employees, a time of chaos can also be an opportunity to push change and innovation forward. We’re living and working in chaos, and this could be the perfect time to reimagine what the new normal looks like for our workforce.
The biggest impact on the changes we will see is the normalization of remote work. Before we experienced a global health crisis, for example, most companies believed that working in an office environment was crucial for productivity. But because the novel coronavirus forced many of us into a work from home situation, these attitudes have drastically changed.
Estimates suggest that early this April, 62% of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis (Gallup, April 2020) compared with about 25% a couple of years ago. During the pandemic, many companies were surprised by how quickly and effectively technologies for videoconferencing and other forms of digital collaboration were adopted. According to McKinsey research, 80% of people report that they enjoy working from home, 41% say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28% say they are as productive. Many employees liberated from long commutes and travel have found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoying greater flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives. Many organizations discovered that they can access new pools of talent with fewer locational constraints, adopt innovative processes to boost productivity, create an even stronger culture, and significantly reduce real-estate costs.
As we plan for a post-COVID workplace, there are a few areas to consider evaluating that can make a positive impact on your organization and how HR can drive change within your company.
HR has organically shifted during the pandemic to a support role, or people operations. Your HR leadership has been a driving force in supporting employees, from working from home to safety procedures. What was once a VP role in HR has become a stakeholder executive role in company leadership, becoming Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) or Director of People Operations. HR not only has a seat at the executive table, it is a function that sets goals and drives change from leadership to company adoption.
This is similar to that of IT and their support ticketing process, in which there are tasks that live in a queue and are prioritized based on impact to productivity. Automation can support functions from intranet FAQs to employee requests to recruitment and screening new employees.
In a post-COVID world, HR and business leaders can reimagine the company structure and scheduling options allowing for a wider talent pool and flexibility. This includes how the future workplace state looks for not only people but also processes, support, and training for employees and leaders in person as well as remote. Offering an option to work remotely is no longer a perk; for many employees it is essential for safety. This means HR takes the lead to train managers and company leaders on how to best hire, onboard, and support a mostly remote workforce.
Part of being able to support a remote workforce means that we must offer employee benefits like telehealth and home office stipends along with a greater focus on mental health. As we’ve discovered in the past several months, working from home is not the same as working from home during a global pandemic. Benefits that support employees who are not physically situated in your office location are crucial.
Paperless systems and processes can be moved 100% online by working with technology partners like Cisive that aid in these areas like background checks, references, and E-Verify systems.
Rather than assuming that your company will revert to previous processes that were in place before the pandemic, use this time to advocate for organizational change. Whether your workforce remains fully remote or a hybrid of remote and on-site work, reimagining and changing processes and practices can serve as the foundation for an improved operating model that leverages the best of both in-person and remote work.
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