With the state of emergency lifted, we are starting to see everyday life gradually return to some semblance of normalcy. Nevertheless, COVID-19 continues to leave a lasting impact and some aspects of life may never be the same, including the way we work. To help adapt to the new normal, we have prepared a guide for HR departments on how to approach work styles.
To avoid the risk of infection, strategies such as staggering commuting and flexible working hours have been adopted to encourage employees to return to the workplace. On the other hand, some companies continue to implement remote work carried out during the declaration of emergency.
Speaking on changing working styles under the new normal, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, encourages organisations to consider various measures including staggered commuting, shift work, and remote work. According to the survey results released by Robert Walters on June 15, the number of companies introducing remote work for all employees increased by 59 percentage points from 14% before coronavirus to 73% after. Furthermore, 74% of the companies plan to allow more employees to work from home, and it is possible that remote work will continue as a regular work arrangement option.
As a result, companies will have to think beyond traditional work styles, such as employees all working together in a shared space, and design systems which allow more flexibility. What are some of the challenges that accompany a largely remote work force?
The evaluation system is the biggest hurdle for both the company and employees as there are no daily face-to-face interactions. When in the workplace, assessment methods are mostly based on hours worked and frequent communication, but these indicators are not possible to monitor remotely.
Additionally, questions regarding decline in productivity arise when there is insufficient communication from the leadership as well as delays in communication among employees. Another issue is the difficulty of gauging the mental health of employees. As COVID-19 is bringing changes to working styles, HR personnel will find themselves needing to introduce new measures.
When some employees are working in the office and others at home, coming up with an evaluation system becomes tricky. The standard method of assessment which focuses on the number of hours worked and tasks completed cannot be fairly applied to those working remotely.
This is where results-based assessments such as key performance indicators (KPIs) or generated revenue comes in handy. Employing a merit-based evaluation will ensure that employees working in the office and those working remotely are equally valued.
One concern for companies when more employees start to work remotely is whether they can properly communicate ideas and policies with employees. To address this, many organisations globally are implementing online town hall meetings between management and all employees. When creating an online forum for management to share ideas and updates with employees, it’s important to take advantage of online functions such as collecting questions live in chat or taking polls on the spot using the voting function to make it interactive. Creating a dialogue between management and employees instead of just one-way communication can help an organisation head towards the same direction through a shared vision and purpose.
To enable employees who work from home to experience similar productivity and comfort as those who are working in the office, it may be worth investing in equipment such as office chairs, monitors and software suitable for remote work. Some companies have supplied employees working from home with high-speed internet, hardware such as computer monitors, software such as communication platforms, and office chairs.
Providing video conferencing software and instant messaging tools, in particular, can allow communication among employees to continue running smoothly, even without seeing each other face-to-face.
As remote work becomes more widely introduced, travel expenses for employees may be reduced. In addition, some companies may opt to downsize their office spaces, with only part of the workforce coming into the office on a rotational basis. Cost savings from these two areas could be used to improve the environment for remote work.
When we are unable to see our colleagues on a day-to-day basis, determining how to carry out team building becomes a major challenge. Fortunately, today’s technology offers solutions such as online forums for dialogue and virtual activities to promote comradery.
Hosting virtual catchups or coffee breaks is great for building mutual understanding and creating new ideas among employees. It is possible that there will be less opportunities for socialising when remote work is introduced, but creating an online space for employees to interact can help to eliminate those concerns.
The creation of online spaces is not limited to virtual drinking parties, but can also include activities focusing on wellbeing, such as online yoga and wellness classes, or starting a podcast that colleagues can participate in or listen to while unwinding at home. With adequate and effective communication, it is possible to foster a sense of unity as a team even without being physically present in the workplace.
For some, working from home is something they are still learning to adapt to, and this can take a toll on their mental wellbeing. Therefore, it’s crucial to have mental health management strategies in place. One measure is to offer an online EAP.
The main objective of an EAP (Employee Assistant Program) is to offer support to employees who are dealing with personal and/or work-related problems that may affect their job performance, health and general wellbeing. To optimise EAPs for new styles of work, collaboration with physicians, public health nurses, in-house counsellors, as well as coaching experts would help provide employees with an online holistic support system.
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