In December 2019, COVID-19 started as a pneumonia outbreak at Wuhan in the provincial territory of Hubei, China – but assumed pandemic proportions over the next few months. In the process of time, the entire world was affected by COVID-19 in one way or another; and ever since that time to date, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc and mayhem on human society and the global economy. This has taken a significant toll on organisations and business entities, and the management of their human resources.
Organisations and business entities have had to adjust their work habits by adopting online work environments and work-from-home strategies to ensure that corporate obligations continue unabated. Despite all that, organisations and business entities are still uncertain about the future of their corporate objectives. This creates a problematic situation for corporate leaders and Human Resources professionals in managing employees for business success.
COVID-19 has indeed changed the human and material landscape of organisations, and many CEOs and corporate leaders opine that it may be difficult, if not impossible, to attain the condition of what existed in the pre-COVID-19 period. Even though countries have started vaccinating their citizenry against COVID-19, it will still take a while for the global world to return to what resembles the pre-COVID-19 era.
A different set of work conditions has emerged. We now have home offices which present new requirements for task-setting and controlling, and employees are separated and work from their distant homes. Teams are further divided into micro-groups and there is loss of connectedness between work colleagues, as well as unequal conditions between employees working from home and those working on-premises. There is a profound need to wear personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, including constantly washing hands.
Therefore, organisations are admonished to undertake strategic interventions by working together and making decisions with their employees to fashion-out ways of transforming their ways of working to remain competitive and achieve corporate objectives. One of the surest means of maintaining work is the virtual and distributed work system (work-from-home), which is believed to have come to stay as part of the organisation’s life. To establish a comprehensive framework of new ways of working that are fit for purpose for the organisation, HR professionals are required to play a central role in this enterprise and drive the needed organisational change.
As part of the role HR has to play in the organisation in the face of the new normal of work conditions, HR has to enact flexible policies to accommodate employees’ office and home working situations. Working from home is an entirely different terrain, hence, HR professionals and corporate executives must be flexible in their policy formulation frameworks to enable employees to develop effective ways to work and be productive.
The new normal work conditions require that employees utilise online digital tools to deliver on their work obligations. Organisations must conduct computer literacy training for their employees and ensure that all employees can use online and digital systems to understand the nuances and ramifications of using the computer and digital platforms to achieve corporate objectives. Some employees may be within the Baby Boomers and Generation X category who may be digitally challenged often referred to as “digital immigrants,” and may not be intrinsically motivated to learn the use of digital systems. HR professionals must encourage such employees and motivate them to develop the passion and desire for computer and digital literacy since that has now become an integral part of the new organisational life.
With the advent of working from home, Managers and Heads of Department of organisations will have to engage in remote management covering the same and existing management roles such as motivation, coaching & mentoring, performance management, problem & conflict resolution, monitoring of working hours, and list but a few. Managers must develop new competencies for distance management, learn and practice new leadership methods to ensure that employees are well managed for organisational success.
HR Professionals and corporate executives are also required to lead their organisations with empathy and purpose. Working from home as part of the new organisational life makes it difficult to shape and advance the organisation’s culture. The absence of face-to-face interactions among employees precludes the organisation from cementing its values and driving its culture. HR Professionals and Corporate leaders must design ways to get employees engaged and motivated so that corporate leaders can wield the necessary impetus to drive the needed transformation in the organisation. Leading with empathy and purpose builds trust and confidence among employees and promotes employee value proposition.
The author is a Human Resources Professional, Petroleum Commission, and Doctoral Candidate at Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada. He can be reached on email: [email protected]; TEL: +1 587-437-2044; WhatsApp Line: +233 27 000 2044.