Aside from more remote working as standard, how have the months of lockdown changed your company’s culture? And how will you carry those changes into the ‘new normal’, whether that means your team still works from home, they’re back in the physical workplace or perhaps a mix of the two?
Let’s look at lessons we’ve noticed from talking to our clients at HR GO - and how what we’ve experienced will influence how businesses do things differently in the months and even years to come...
The lockdown months brought on a national sense of camaraderie. Communities joined in solidarity to set up support groups or volunteer as helpers, with many of us coming outside to clap for carers every week. This feeling of all being in it together extended to the brand new virtual workplaces up and down the country, too. At HR GO, we all made an extra effort to bond and acknowledge the exceptional moment we were all living through.
Now, as the national lockdown has eased, we’ve realised that this shared solidarity is something that teams can draw on for years to come. It sounds cliched but if you can get through a global pandemic you can get through anything, surely?
Feeling connected with other colleagues can be one of the first things to vanish when people are working apart. Mindful of this fact, many teams have supercharged their efforts to keep communicating - whether that’s with group chats or one-on-one catch ups. The result? Successful teams may well communicate far more remotely than when they’re in the same location. Not just that, but they seem to make their time together count - and that means make meetings work harder, too.
No one knows when it will be safe for teams to gather together in one place again without any safety restrictions. Real face-to-face time will be even more precious than before, and employers should aim to get the maximum value from it.
The pandemic has taken its toll on so many areas of life - including the nation’s mental and emotional health. As we’ve all been living through this uncertainty, it feels good to acknowledge how we’re feeling.
Pre-2020, most employers had already realised that mental health should be treated with the same importance as physical health. Now, promoting mental wellness in the workplace - wherever colleagues are located - should be even further up the priority list.
As we navigate our way through the next few months, it will be crucial to encourage employees to keep being honest about how they’re feeling, with plenty of personal check-ins. Just watch for anyone who does feel isolated among the team - and don’t assume that those who put on a brave face aren’t struggling in private. And of course employees who struggled with mental health issues before this pandemic have had huge extra challenges and will need extra tailored support to help them cope.
Most of us have seen TV news clips of people being interrupted by young children wandering into home offices in the middle of interviews. School closures and lack of childcare made these unscripted cameos inevitable. Of course, some situations (and roles) call for zero interruptions if possible. But remote working on a mass scale means that colleagues see other colleagues in their home environments - and we believe the world is better for that.
Through our chats with job candidates at HR GO we’ve known for years that many want to join employers who encourage them to bring their true selves to work. And the fact that authenticity isn’t now viewed as unprofessional will make a more relaxed, real workplace when we do transition back to the office - crucial for attracting the very best candidates to your team.
Before the pandemic, many employers had doubts about whether employees could be trusted to manage their workloads from home. But businesses have had no choice: they’ve just had to count on staff to get on with their work, around other commitments like childcare and home-schooling.
The best employers have allowed their people to choose their working hours to fit what else is going on in their lives. And if this way of working can succeed in even the most stressful of circumstances, surely it’s a sign that a flexible work ethic is the way forward.
The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work, and - wherever your employees are set to be based over the next few months - it’s crucial to learn from any lessons lockdown has taught us all.