The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unparalleled in its scale and spread on a global level. Apart from sending shockwaves across world economies, the pandemic exposed glaring vulnerabilities in global value chains. COVID-19 also disrupted the functional competencies of world trade and businesses with the downturn resulting in reduced production and consumption. However, the debilitating impact of the pandemic has been more palpable for workforces who are facing intense psychological stress and anxiety as they face an uncertain future resulting from an impending loss of incomes and job layoffs. In a way, it would not be an exaggeration to say that every employee at different chain of the organizational hierarchy is facing his/her own individual “psychological” pandemic.
Stringent social distancing policies and mandatory lockdowns imposed by governments have forced employees to work from their homes or remote locations. With work from home emerging as the new normal, workforces are reporting increased stress levels exacerbated by feelings of isolation, lack of motivation and blurring of home and work balance. As we rapidly transition to a ‘distance economy’ driven by a tech-enabled remote working model, workforce managers and HR departments of companies will need to display greater levels of compassion and empathy in helping employees cope with the changes.
Doing away with authoritarian management styles and autocratic decision-making practices, team leaders and supervisors will have to become increasingly responsive to employee mental health challenges and prioritize the welfare and overall well-being of employees and their families. It needs to be noted here that employees are the greatest and most valuable asset of any company and should be treated like one. Line managers in an organization will need to interact with their team members on a regular basis, take efforts to understand and address their concerns and play a proactive role in maximizing employee satisfaction and engagement. Acting as a liaison between the senior management, HR department and workers, they will have to essay a key role in fostering open communication and building an environment of trust and transparency within the organization. The underlying focus will have to be on ensuring that employee connectivity and communication remain intact as diverse teams work from remote locations. This will help in improving employee output, enhancing customer relationships and facilitating increased value for shareholders.
As workplace dynamics undergo a transformational change, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the concept of workplace management. With the pandemic having facilitated a tech-enabled remote working model, managements of companies will need to play the role of facilitators in helping employees imbibe new value systems, integrate new-age behavioral patterns and develop innovative learning mindsets. We are looking at the emergence of a corporate ecosystem where companies have become tech-reliant and digital-savvy by default rather than by design. The outbreak of the pandemic resulting in global uncertainty and volatility has accelerated the need to constantly upgrade the digital skillsets of workforces. HR departments of companies and senior managements can leverage the power of tools like gamification and simulated learning software to recreate real-life environments and help employees imbibe the requisite digital skills, values and attitudes in an employee.
Workforce managers and the HR departments of companies will need to realize the importance of building a future-proof and crisis resilient workforce in the wake of COVID-19. This will not only help workplaces efficiently navigate the complexities of the pandemic but also enable organizations to emerge stronger in its aftermath.
In a world of fast-changing workplace innovations where standardized solutions and traditional processes are fast becoming outdated, workforces need to be trained to become more agile, adaptive and responsive to work and drive positive change. The onus will be on working as a team connected by a common mission and purpose in a volatile global ecosystem and leverage the opportunities emerging in a post COVID-19 world.