At the dawn of 2020, the world faced a challenge – unpredictable and unprecedented. The news stated that the business and financial economy of our country was slowing down. Organisations were forced to lay off people, announce pay cuts, and even cancel increments due to unforeseen challenges. With an active workforce close to 50 crores in India across a diverse gig-economy, embracing digital and working from home seemed like a wise option.
Companies remodeled their policies, allowed more flexible working hours, and focused on employee-centric solutions. However, working from home for more than a year led to the rise of new problems. Juggling personal and professional lives amidst all social restrictions, balancing between needs and wants, coupled with prolonged work hours not only led to screen fatigue, but also added pressure to our holistic wellbeing.
Being cognizant of challenges
Although the transition into remote working happened instantly, the need for socialising created barriers between communications, leading to social isolation. Thus, since the beginning of the second wave, organisations across the globe have been considering the adoption of a hybrid work model.
From following a weekly rotational roster adhering to the social norms and protocols to arranging for official transportation to the workplace to avoid the use of public transport, companies have consistently been striving to make things work. Rethinking employee wellbeing became a priority and companies rekindled Employee Value Proposition and Assistance programs that would take care of an employee’s social, emotional, as well as physical wellbeing – be it through meditation, sessions on post-pandemic anxiety management, diet and lifestyle consultation, or recreational virtual celebrations.
From facilitating tie-ups for wellbeing counselling to collaborating with medical professionals for tips and sensitisation, to organising vaccination camps for employees as well as their families- organisations left no stone unturned. In fact, leadership and senior management even went to the extent of declaring a Vaccination leave for recovery, post vaccine.
Considering the changing times, here’s a list of challenges that organisations would need to address in the post-pandemic world:
A new routine with compliance and caution
Have you ever measured the distance between your work desk at home and your bed? Have you not been tempted, (or sometimes even attempted) working on the bed and attending a meeting being informally dressed? Did you not have a child crying, a pressure cooker whistling or a street hawker howling in the background of your team call?
Well, are you going to miss all of this when you resume work?
Or, would you rather go back to the tiring commute when you had time to compose your thoughts? The bantering between colleagues that made work fun and the cups of tea/coffee that you would devour while preparing for a client meeting!
The change will also begin instantly and from home. Right from readjusting your routine to re-familiarising yourself with your work habits. But this time around there will be a layer of safety added by default. Wearing masks, maintaining appropriate social distance, washing hands regularly – will all be a part of the new hybrid normal. And at times like these, the onus of providing for the facilities and ensuring compliance will lie with companies.
Safety first, for one and all
From provisioning for thermal screening at all access points to installing sanitisation stations to replacing door handles with foot pedals, and plexiglass now separating all human interaction points, organisations have to be cognizant of the basic amenities and adapt employee-centric solutions for ensuring maximum precaution.
Attendance through biometric fingerprints is a thing of the past. Businesses will have to make a conscious attempt to redesign their office spaces. Cafeterias, meeting rooms, as well as washrooms will have to have stringently sanitised surfaces, every single time. Right from training the housekeeping staff, to creating awareness and ensuring that each one adheres to the safety protocol, companies will have to be on an extra alert mode.
One of the major concerns cited in popular back-to-work studies conducted throughout the world is that colleagues may not take instructions seriously. Sometimes, the impulsive handshake may also result in certain unpleasant situations. This could not only cause conflicts in the workplace but also affect the established team dynamics.
Back to Basics
In the hybrid model, the remote leadership and empathetic skills that were assessed in 2020 will be put to test. Striving to overcome the innate bias against remote working employees, managers must strive to create a safe, positive, and inclusive work environment with transparency in communications as well as reporting systems; without impacting the empathetic approach that would have been expected during a personal emergency.
Human Resources will face hurdles in terms of reconstructing employee engagement initiatives and hence, it is critical to e-connect with all employees regularly, to help them adapt and transition back into the outlined work model. But before considering moving back to work, be it as an individual or as an organisation, consider proposing a herd immunity through vaccinations, while setting up basic ground rules with hygiene protocols that have to be followed as a mandate.
Because according to Microsoft’s first annual work trend index released in June 2021, 74% of Indian employees want more flexible options for remote working as well as the opportunity for in-person interactions with their teams. Thus, proving that the hybrid work model paradox is definitely here to stay.