By Elliot H. Clark
OK, I am stir-crazy—as I am sure are many of you—and it is only day four of working from home as I write this. Humans are social creatures and our ability to team with others is a cornerstone of our evolution into becoming Earth’s dominant species. Of course, there are times when people don’t get along well, and the answer for that is an HR department.
First, I hope everyone all reading is safe and healthy. I have few observations from early on in this global event that I want to share. As we move into this interim period that I call the “new abnormal,” we will see some long-term changes and some of them may be very good.
Over the past week, I have to say I am very proud of the extended SharedXpertise/HRO Today team. We moved to remote work globally without missing a beat. We had to learn some new collaboration tools—one that we were actually licensing and not using, but are now leveraging successfully. I turned on my TV and the movie “Castaway” was on. Not the best time to broadcast that film, I suppose. My reading list no longer includes a re-read of “Robinson Crusoe.” So, abandoning those entertaining (?) diversions, we continue to work during the day as usual, but virtually. Using collaboration tools, I am face-to-face with distant colleagues with whom I would otherwise have done calls. I like the video and chat features far better. This will be a permanent change.
Another permanent change will be an enhanced appreciation by the office crowd of the previous work-from-home employees. I will admit that I did not fully grasp the differences. I understood they existed, but had never experienced them myself. This will be a great benefit to our remote workforce. I believe we may see an expansion of the remote workforce as companies realize that they can manage workers and productivity remotely. Tools for remote management will see an increase in consumption and HR will have to add this to the list of necessary infrastructure.
We will see more acceptance of flexible work schedules. One of the outcomes of this prolonged period of work from home and the global nature of business is that office employees who previously did not have to work off hours may begin to do so. I doubt we will return to the “office hours” paradigm that easily. We would all be better off if we focused on productivity rather than timecards, with the obvious exception of manufacturing or shift-based professions like healthcare.
We will see new models of leadership. Managers will be more conscious of the need to “connect” with staff. Before last week, many took it for granted that they were “connected” because they saw each other every day. Now managers are more conscious of this, and let’s all hope, for the employees’ sake, they stay that way. In addition, HR has been called upon to be the fun creative group (take that Catbert…) and come up with virtual social events to reinforce culture and engage employees with each other. See our cover story for more. We will all, eventually, to get back to some level of normalcy. For example, we are postponing our HRO Today Forum North America from May 4th to 6th to December 1st to 3rd, but we DO intend to host it, assuming we can do so without risk to the HRO Today team and to our valued attendees.
All in all, aside from the psychological pain of isolation, or “psycho-lation,” and the painful economic quarters ahead, there will be some potentially good changes from this. These positives will come alongside the sorrow of losing people who become infected and tragically pass from this life. HR will have to inevitably help employees impacted with that loss.
Be safe, be healthy, and visit our knowledge portal for COVID-19 resources that we are continually posting.