As the world reels under the COVID-19 pandemic, nations across the world are trying everything conceivable to contain the spread. World economies are already beginning to see the brunt of its effect on businesses. While the government has put some precautions in place, urging citizens not to travel unless urgent, practicing social distancing, working from home wherever possible, different industries and organisations have their unique challenges to deal with. Most companies have invoked their Business Continuity Plans, putting their best tech-foot forward/ However, the grim scenario of ‘whether my business can sustain this?’ is already looming large in front of many companies. Companies are doing their worst-case scenario planning, conserving cash, renegotiating agreements, curtailing headcount, reducing rentals, even invoking force majeure, all so as to ensure survival of their business.
Organisations, which are in the ‘essential service provider’ category, are tackling the immediate challenge of keeping their staff safe, ensuring facilities are functional, keeping their staff mobile and available amidst lockdown, essentially doing all they can to keep their services operational. The present pandemic is challenging organizations to re-think their ‘business-as-usual’ when it comes to people, facilities, customer acquisition and servicing, among other things.
In these challenging times, the HR element of a leader’s role is absolutely crucial in handling team morale and well-being, managing their productivity and keeping teams committed and together. Today, the HR aspect is no longer about only supporting from behind. During these unprecedented times, the HR role of leaders becomes even more significant and they are expected to respond quickly and comprehensively, considering immediate, short-term, and long-term consequences of the crisis.
- Providing Protective Zone and establishing structured daily check-ins:
A key job of each leader is to keep the workforce engaged, involved, committed and focused towards the success and continuity of their business. Especially in testing conditions such as these, Managers need to work harder to ensure that each team member acknowledges the challenge and remains motivated. Simultaneously, Managers, in coordination with HR, need to ensure all necessary help or measures are taken to ensure employee healthcare and well-being even while working remotely. Establishing daily calls with remote team members is important. It helps if the calls are regular and predictable, provide a forum for teams to consult with their Manager/HR, wherever required, and that their concerns and questions will be heard.
- Managing Data security and Data Privacy:
While technology has developed and evolved significantly and enabling Work from Home is a possibility, concerns on end-point security, information protection in an obscure and uncontrolled workspace, is still a challenge and educating teams is a major responsibility of the teams as the onus lies on them to make it work.
- Establishing Engagement Rules:
Remote work turns out to be increasingly proficient and fulfilling when the Manager sets expectations for the frequency, plan and means of communication with their teams. With the support of HR team, Managers need to ensure means of social interaction for their teams i.e have casual discussions about non-work topics, while working remotely. Also, due to a sudden shift to remote work, it is significant for managers to recognize stress, listen to team mates’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles.
- Collaborating humans and technology:
In the present circumstance, organizations need to deploy their best technology solutions to ensure such disruptors don’t impact work. Managers, in consultation with HR, need to comprehend what keeps people engaged, what drives a positive work environment, and what empowers a genuine convergence of human ability with technology. Teams, need to be prepared to experiment with new online tools to ensure their own productivity and connect.
- Evolving HR policies:
In the long-term, organizations may witness a sharp shift in some HR policies, especially Work from Home. The current situation will prompt changes in the policy related to work from home by simultaneously ensuring business operations, productivity and continuity. Such policy will need to be crafted keeping the industry, the nature of role, culture and leadership perspective in mind. Most jobs, requiring high-touch or are high on info-sec risk are going to stay in office premises, whereas other jobs may be considered for temporary or rotational telecommuting i.e. work-from-home or work-from-remote, opportunities. Importantly, the focus will remain on creating a positive work environment while the employees are working from home. It is rightly said that the future of business is here, and it is now! ‘Change is the only constant’ and companies which will adapt will survive. ‘Planning ahead in order to sustain’ is what will be differentiator between resilient companies and the rest!