The COVID-19 vaccine is finally here. Multiple vaccines to tackle COVID-19 were approved for emergency use in the last two months. Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Bharat Biotech are among the companies that are leading the pack on approved vaccines. There’s still a long road ahead for businesses to resume ‘’normal work’’ operations. New realities and workplace expectations will dominate the headspace of HR Heads and business leaders as employees return to work.
The pandemic showed that working remotely won’t reduce workplace productivity, but it will cause burnout – especially when blurring work-life priorities aren’t supported by a conducive workplace environment.
Over the last few months, many companies already planned their return to work strategy and instituted a number of steps – from opening up partial work operations, creating a hybrid model of work, creating safety protocols, rethinking workflows to leveraging technology. All of this is likely to continue throughout this year. In fact, companies are moving a step further across the world. They are preparing to vaccinate employees or reimburse those who do. In the Philippines, 200 companies inked a tripartite deal with the government and British company AstraZeneca to supply vaccines to their employees. In India, the Hindustan Times reports that Steel producer Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, multinational conglomerate company Mahindra Group and consumer goods giant ITC Ltd have begun initial checks on vaccines being available to buy. However, these are still early days.
Hegeler Solomon, People & Organizations Director, Mars Wrigley India in a conversation with People Matters said that most companies may not mirror the same return to work strategy. “Relevance matters: Industry, nature of work, client base, competition, and the culture of your organization are some important elements. And in the absence of credible data (to take decisions on returning to work), there’s a need to ‘launch and learn’ - this approach will help us fail and learn fast!”
For the first time since the pandemic began, there’s hope for a normal world – even when new mutations of the COVID-19 virus threaten or slow down progress. The World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros noted that “for too long, the world operated on a cycle of panic and neglect… We throw money at an outbreak, and when it's over, we forget about it and do nothing to prevent the next one. This is dangerously short-sighted and frankly difficult to understand.”
Here’s hoping that business and HR leaders everywhere remember important lessons on the relevance of the workplace environment, the value of employee experience, the enabling role of technology, and the need for human connection.