Twelve months ago, HR departments and business leaders were sat together in meeting rooms facing a truly unprecedented situation whilst trying to determine the best course of action for their business and determine how quickly and efficiently they could set up their workforce to start working from home.
Fast forward a year and amidst all the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic, HR departments have learnt some key lessons that have and will continue to transform the working world.
The importance of flexible working
Pre-COVID, a lot of businesses believed in a “one size fits all” approach and that remote working does not work. But one key lesson HR departments have learnt in the past year is the ability to react and adapt to new working practices quickly. There was an almost, global overnight shift into working from home and since then, employees have proven they are able to work productively and perform their duties even whilst working remotely. We’re now seeing many businesses set up future plans of a more blended working model, whereby employees will split their time between office and remote working. This model would benefit those employees who feel they can get their head down and work better at home whilst also suiting those who prefer the energy and an office vibe environment. Ultimately, there needs to be a balance between flexibility and structure with the individual needs of employees.
Addressing mental health
Previously, it’s fair to say mental health was a taboo subject in society. As a result of the events of the past year, people have faced incredible hardships and therefore have become more open to talking about and sharing their personal mental challenges. Companies have raised awareness internally and created HR policies to define mental health protocol within their businesses. Those in senior positions have taken the time to understand people’s circumstances on a more personal level.
HR departments have also learnt the importance of not taking for granted the small interactions people need to have whilst working virtually. Social chat rooms have been created to replace office corridor and coffee catch-ups, as well as general “hang-out” virtual meetings, all to replace the small office conversations.
The importance of communication
When employees don’t physically see or hear from management, it understandably raises levels of anxiety and feelings of uncertainty. As a result, businesses have had to adapt to communicating far more than ever before. HR leaders have been at the epicentre of trying to find new and innovative ways of keeping employees connected even whilst physically apart. This had led to a rise in the use of platforms like Google Hangouts and Zoom where people can virtually interact. Businesses face further periods of volatility and therefore it is key for HR and business leaders to continue communicating even when offices start to re-open, this will ensure all employees are kept up to date with changes.
Improving employee life experience by ensuring engagement strategies suit a digital workforce
If the past year has taught us anything, it's to really value time spent with loved ones. HR departments have been faced with a seemingly impossible task of boosting team morale and keeping employees engaged throughout a pretty gloomy pandemic. In light of this, more and more businesses have recognised that employees are no longer solely looking for monetary rewards but rather experience rewards. Receiving such gifts would make space for new discoveries, spending time with loved ones and having amazing stories that the employee can share afterwards.
Boosting morale and employee wellbeing
Swapping the buzz of the office and the constant natter of nearby colleagues, to spending hours alone at home has caused a rise in isolation and a drop in morale and productivity. Therefore, it has fallen to HR to boost morale and employee wellbeing, and also create new and engaging activities that people can take part in and have something on their agenda to look forward too.
For example, over the Christmas period Virgin Incentives hosted virtual cocktail making classes for the team and cross-departmental team challenges such as scavenger hunts to encourage people to not only get out and about but also speak to colleagues from other departments.
Creating a forward thinking approach
HR leaders have also learnt the importance of making the most of the moment and creating a forward-thinking approach for their employees. When Valentine’s Day came around, our workforce remained entirely remote, but Virgin Incentives were innovative by sending Valentine’s Day care packages to all employees, filled with sweet treats to keep us all going.
When working remotely, it can be easy to miss the element of “fun” that office working entails. To create a forward-thinking mindset, Virgin Incentives leadership has already announced the summer party to give our entire team something to look forward to and reassure us that the end is nigh.