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The New Normal of Work, Worker & Workplace

The worldwide Coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for economies around the world – and has been especially impactful on businesses of all types, industries, and sizes. 

For HR leaders, the pressures have been immense, the majority of the world is currently locked down. We are not just working from home; we are at home, working in the midst of a pandemic! Engaging employees working from home with diverse backgrounds and demographics brings the biggest challenge for HR teams 

Initially, the pandemic pushed us into the deep end of the ocean, where we didn’t know what to expect and had to learn to survive. It also forced us to adopt a whole new set of rules and regulations, without preparation/ lead time, and find a new normal for ourselves, our teams, and our families. 

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A lot of us moved to working from home from the mid of March’20. While work from home was not a new concept, none of us had practiced it at this scale and frequency. The challenges we faced were straight forward in the beginning- 

  • How do we connect remotely and ensure business continuity? 
  • What technology should we use? 
  • Will we be able to collaborate within cross-functional teams? 
  • Can we be productive in this time and help sustain the top & bottom lines of the organization? 

As we have settled down to new routines, it is also making us question the many very things we took for granted before. Organizations are asking themselves, was there a constant need to travel and many such practices. 

As time progressed we got acquainted to extended lockdowns, online meetings over Zoom or MS Teams, house parties on some random app, online fitness and meditation, rationing groceries in our kitchen, and managing Work “for” home and not just work “from” home. The New Normal had truly arrived. 

Read More: COVID-19 Has Had Companies Acting Swiftly To Ensure Business Continuity

But as time has progressed, the challenges have also become complicated. It is no more about surviving the crisis for a month or two, but about thriving in these times and helping the business move on. From an HR perspective, leaders will need to focus on three critical areas: 

  • Driving Business Agility and enhancing productivity – Adaptive and agile organizations are best prepared to navigate uncertainty and change. Business agility can translate into being the category leaders with innovative solutions or an ability to quickly adapt processes & mechanisms to enable higher productivity.While most manufacturing organizations had to shut down activities, Amara Raja’s food-based plants continued to work. How Amara Raja managed to collaborate with the relevant workforce, ensure their safety and start the plant was key to their success. Geo-tagging of their attendance systems allowed them to know where their employees were checking-in from and their collaboration tool helped communicate with their 16,000+ workforce instantly.
  • Well-being – The impacts of the pandemic will have long term negative effects on employee wellbeing. Continuously working remotely has been linked with depression and low engagement with work. At this juncture, HR leader play a crucial role in keeping in touch with their employees.Managers across teams should connect with their team members on 1-on-1 calls and try to understand how their teams are doing, beyond the work. A key trend emerging out of the pandemic has been that organizations have invested more time on up-skilling their employees. Whether through platforms like Coursera, Udemy or Alt Learning, the rate of course consumption has increased up to 5X times!
  • Evolved Leadership & Succession Planning – the pandemic has reinforced that HR must work to develop clear, open, honest, and empathetic leaders at all levels of the organization. It is a time to re-think succession planning, and even re-define what sort of leaders do we want our organization to have!While there have been a lot of conversations about the new normal; about how life is never going to go back to the way it was before, we’re getting used to what our new reality is. But I would like to submit a hypothesis here, the new normal is not the world without business and people and offices, it is the world where we focus on work more instead of office. 

It is the world of virtual workplaces, digital transformation, collaboration and communication, new business processes and models, result based tracking and taking a balanced and disciplined approach. 

We are in this together and while this change has needed some change in our behavior, we can come out of it stronger & more charged to deliver.