Coronavirus and the changing work environment

Man smiling at laptop with headphones on

The past few months will be probably the most memorable in our working lives. It has been a strange and stressful time, yet many of us have found sources of pride and learnings along the way.

Most business have had to adopt new working processes almost overnight, rapidly making difficult decisions about what is essential work and what can be put on hold. At the same time, organisations have had to anticipate what their clients, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders might be thinking and how they will act.

As the dust settles, it’s worth taking note of some important developments that have come to light as we follow the government’s guidelines.

Technology is everything

It’s incredible how much can still be done with employees based at home, unable to access their normal office and without physically visiting colleagues or customers – at least on a temporary basis. Imagine the impact lockdown would have had 20 years ago, before remote access and videoconferencing became the norm.

Some forward-thinking businesses are managing to perform with little change to their output thanks to their investment in the right technology. This is certainly something to remember in keeping your IT systems updated and futureproof.

Online processes create agility

We at Vero HR have seen first-hand how effective cloud-based HR technology can be when faced with unprecedented situations.

In response to the government’s guidance for every furloughed employee to receive a letter, for example, we have helped clients draft, approve and issue hundreds of mailings to staff in just a few hours.  Even better, we can track which letters have been read, with employees able to instantly confirm their acceptance of the terms or raise a query.

For businesses without this kind of online HR system, this kind of mass HR process can be lengthy and painful, involving databases, mail merging and a reliance on the postal service.

Remote working works … at least for now

It’s common in most workplaces for at least one senior leader to be strongly averse to remote working in all its forms. They will tell you that there is simply no better way to do business than in person. But social distancing rules have forced most organisations to adopt a new, flexible approach – at least on a temporary basis. Seeing Cabinet meetings being held by videoconference really brought that message home.

Many people using apps like Teams, Slack and Trello to collaborate on projects are finding that they are, temporarily at least, able to continue working on a remote basis. The question in every organisation working this way will be whether home working is here to stay – at least as a part-time option. Both organisations and employees are currently evaluating the benefits of this unique employment experiment.

Remote working and virtual meetings can present huge efficiencies to both businesses and employees. Coronavirus has forced our hand, but there could be long term gains in terms of productivity, wellbeing, cost – and the environment too – if we maintain some of these practices long term.

People will always surprise you

Everyone responds differently in a crisis situation, and it’s impossible to predict where the best support and ideas will come from. You may even find that senior leaders are unable to rise to the challenge – or that the real heroes are members of your frontline staff.

Do make sure that your organisation rewards those that have gone the extra mile, and support those who have genuinely found this time particularly difficult. Most organisations have been surprised who has “stepped up to the plate” … and who hasn’t.

We must act on our learnings

Covid-19 poses one of the biggest threats in living memory, with the resulting control measures creating a huge impact on society, the economy and the individual in equal measure. This is undoubtedly a worrying time full of many unknowns.

Yet adversity often helps us see the true value in things and allow us to realise what’s really important. The Coronavirus crisis has already highlighted so many individuals stepping up to make a difference in these difficult times, and moments of outstanding employee loyalty and commitment.

Once the crisis is behind us, we owe it to ourselves to grow and learn from our experiences for everyone’s benefit. Whether it’s to reduce our organisation’s travel and revisit our working practices, or to ensure our employees feel more informed and valued, we must all make positive changes as the result of this enormous and ongoing challenge.

Interested in finding out more? Take a look at Vero Insights article Video Conferencing in HR.

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