The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed every aspect of our life, giving us a new perspective. It would be safe to say that the pandemic year did not go as planned for all. With many economic activities and business operations coming to a standstill, the pandemic-related crisis forced us all to unlearn and learn new ways of living, to adapt to the constantly changing environment.
With Social Distancing being the most used phrase during the pandemic, we are witnessing new norms and methods of social distancing to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. As each and every one looks to maintain distance and move away from each other, the entire world looks to grow apart. However as the legendary Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal”, we indeed need to find ways and means to socialize in order to survive.
This is one of the biggest challenges organizations and HR Departments are currently facing, where they need to keep their employees upbeat, motivated, secured and at the same time instill the fact that they are not alone. Hence we see the year 2021 being the year of transforming the employer-employee dynamics.
We implemented various norms and practices last year and were successful in moving past the first wave of COVID-19. Just when there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel, the resurgence of the pandemic has brought new challenges ahead of us. Many of us have emerged stronger through the pandemic but the cloud of uncertainty still continues to hover over us. Everyone is concerned, anxious, insecure and even afraid.
We all remember how hard it was when we first went into lockdown and had to work cut-off from all our colleagues and the interactions we enjoyed with them. But there was a sense of hope when the cases began to decline and life began to return to normal. However with the second wave, it is only to be expected that the morale, mental wellbeing and spirit of our employees will have taken a hit, all the more so when so many of us have now been personally affected by the ravaging effects of the pandemic.
This is the time for companies and managers to step up and redraw the lines that have for decades defined the employer-employee relationship, to make it one characterised by greater care, empathy and humanity.
To a degree, this has already begun to happen. A greater trust and deeper bond has developed between employee and employer. This is especially true of companies who have been constantly engaging with their employees.
Moreover, pandemic engagement means managers have begun seeing their employees less as ‘resources’ and more as ‘people’. Kids playing in the background, dogs barking in the middle of a video call, the colour of their bedroom walls, the artwork they have in the background. Managers have been forced to see their employees as people with interests, hobbies, families, and generally, lives.
Employers are making an effort to understand the issues employees face, with an emphasis on their mental well-being during this trying time.
Employee priorities have also shifted. How employers support their physical, mental, and financial well-being, job security, personal safety and the humanity with which they are treated have become bigger considerations than how much their annual increment is going to be.
Nevertheless, empathy alone cannot keep productivity levels up. It’s easy to lose sense of time amid a lockdown when the days all blur into one. Employees also need to be given a purpose.
An important way to do this is to adopt a more inclusive approach, give employees a voice in the decision making, instill in them the belief that their voice matters. Not only does this cultivate a sense of responsibility and sense of ownership but it also keeps an employee invested and engaged with the organisation. This is especially crucial at a time when s/he has no way of coming into contact with the brand s/he’s working for.
This retains that sense of belonging employees normally feel toward their organisation at a time when, far away from the office, cut-off from colleagues and working in isolation, it is easy to lose.
We will get through it. We will get through this pandemic. But we don't know when. So long as we are weathering it, it is crucial for both employers and employees to forge deeper bonds.
Mutual trust, positivity, motivation and cooperation between both the employers and employees will be the key to prevail over the COVID-19 crisis.