I don’t even know where to start. I’m really hoping that some people will start to take COVID -19 more seriously. I think often of the front-line workers, brave souls, and hats off to all of them! I also feel very fortunate to live in Canada in these times and to experience how our various levels of government are responding.
For sure this is a life altering event for all of us and undoubtedly will forever change the way we have been accustomed to living. It will change how we think about things, it will change our views, our personal values and also our behaviours. Some of this new normal will be positive for sure, and as humans it will take us some time to adapt, this is what the experts are saying.
Will there be another pandemic? When? Will it be the same virus? Will it be even worse? Will we be better prepared?
In our lifetime this pandemic can be categorized in psychological terms as a ‘significant emotional event’. A commonly accepted definition of a significant emotional event is “an experience that is so mentally arresting that it becomes a catalyst for you to consider, examine, and possibly change your initial values or value system.”
So, with that in mind – what will this mean in the work world or the post COVID-19 employee-employer relationship? How will the new normal affect employers and employees?
For 100% for sure it will change the relationship. As an example, many employers will be looking closely now at non-office or remote working more seriously and not just from a feasibility/do-ability point but from a health, carbon footprint and social responsibility standpoint too. Employers may now be able to see which employees are better than others in the remote work scenario. The age old adage that still many managers have – that employees must be in the office to be able to work will now be put to the extreme test and in my view, good, it should, long overdue, and why does it take a pandemic to see this?
There will be situations where employees won’t do previously required business travel, others may require/demand to work from home more often. There will be cases of employees presenting a strong case to work from home, (now that they have done it and know how to) and the company will need to have proper well thought-out responses vs. an ‘everybody back to work scenario’. Companies that don’t responsibly/properly respond to employee’s new work request arrangements could be seen to be putting their employee’s own health at risk and this may be a very good reason for an employee to decide to work elsewhere where this may not be the case.
I heard of one company who went from 20% remote workers, now to 80% and they are right now actively looking at ways to keep closer to the 80% post pandemic. This same company also reports significantly improved absenteeism rates, also employees have more liberties working from home, also no call in time to pay, etc. As employers we have been forced into new ways of working which will unquestionably challenge the status quo. Smart employers will be proactive, they’ll be out in front of this – and if not, they will be fodder for those companies who are out in front.
Other employees will have a heightened fear of germs or crowds or workplace cleanliness/sanitization or of other employees coming to work sick. There are probably a thousand different things which will surface which will cause employers to really have a hard think on traditional ways of doing business and managing people.
I don’t have all the answers here but I can share with you the things employers could be looking at right now as a result of our current pandemic and the effect it is having and will have on workers and companies all over the world.
The checklist is meant as a starting point for employers to get out in front of the new normal coming our way.
- When all of this is behind us, conduct a lessons learned exercise and identify existing gaps for better emergency preparedness, seek out employee experiences and thoughts/feelings/ideas, talk with customers, vendors, community leaders, government
- Engage employees, make them a key part of the process to identify new ways of working that reflect the new normal – ask them what worked, what didn’t, what they prefer the company change or keep doing
- Relook at your Environmental or Social Responsibility Policy in regards to carbon footprint and work from home options
- Revisit employment agreements with regard to lay-offs, work from home, paid time off, banked overtime, banked vacation, government directives/laws to stay home
- Equip/train managers with a robust system to manage remote workers, employee engagement applies in different ways to remote workers, more effort is required by both parties
- Invest in training employees how best to do remote work, including access to physical and mental health services
- Relook at current performance management processes (setting objectives, reporting, feedback, coaching) in light of increased ongoing remote work scenario
- Develop robust IT solutions for more seamless work from home/customer interactions on a scheduled basis
- Consider employee savings plans which can be liquidated in the event of a pandemic or the like
- Develop office cleanliness/sanitization protocols
- Revisit acceptable reasons for health related absences, eliminate the dr. note requirement
- Train managers with how to deal with work refusals related to health concerns
- Consider culturally replacing the traditional handshake in your company with a non-touch greeting
- Relook at current Employee Assistance Program coverages, educate employees on these, if you don’t have an EAP, consider the value in getting one – they truly do pay huge dividends
- Consider hiring workers who always work remote, this can even be in different countries
- Develop a company emergency supply of masks, hand sanitizers, wipes, cleansers, etc.
- Arrange a company plan for grocery delivery during a pandemic or the like
- Re-visit benefit plan coverages, eligibility, etc.
- Develop a company specific Pandemic Plan
Employers who are thinking everything will go back to the way it once was are in for a big surprise!
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By: Ron Guest, Senior Partner www.twogreysuits.com