HR professionals have faced enormous challenges over the past few months. It’s been like HR whack-a-mole: as soon as one HR issue’s solved, another resurfaces.
- Supporting employee wellbeing through extreme stress and anxiety
- Empowering productivity as employees learn to work in new ways
- Handling furloughs and layoffs with compassion
- Overseeing authentic, transparent, frequent and compliant communication
- Navigating back to the office, minimising employee (and business) risk
- Handling a hybrid workforce with huge range of WFH experiences
All while adapting to rapid change yourself (and no small measure of personal disruption and anxiety, in many cases).
In the face of new restrictions, empathy is crucial
The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for HR professionals will likely prove far-reaching. There’s no definite end in sight, and prior to September’s restrictions coming into force, a hybrid workforce model was presenting the clearest opportunity to manage space, limit risk, help employees feel safe, and cater to everyone’s unique needs.
74% of workers feel managers should demonstrate leadership based on empathy. Empathetic leadership means recognising that a one-size-fits-all HR support strategy fits no one.
The fact is, working remotely – and coming back to the office – is nothing if not divisive. Some employees have battled burnout, loneliness, overwork and isolation, while others have loved the freedom from commuting, the flexibility and the autonomy.
Employees have complex, multifaceted and unique needs, especially right now. HR professionals are navigating extreme complexity as work evolves – and the stubborn myth that HR is just a support function is dissipating.
HR leaders are being recognised as drivers of business decision-making and guardians of employee engagement: instrumental to long-term business recovery.
Rethinking HR: where do we go from here?
HR professionals have absolutely risen to the challenges of the pandemic so far, but the work is far from over.
As uncertainty continues, the long-term implications for employee engagement could be costly. 70% of employees say wellbeing support will be important to them after the pandemic, for instance.
HR must step up, and rethink how to support employees in this new normal. For example, evaluating how processes, policies and benefits may need to change to reflect a workplace that’s potentially unrecognisable from early 2020.
The major HR challenge is ensuring people working remotely have access to the same support as people in the office.
For instance, do they have the same technical equipment to work effectively? What about internet speed? (On one day in March, internet use in Italy surged by 30%. Are homeworkers disadvantaged if they rely on home internet?)
What about ergonomic office equipment? And how are managers adapting to managing a hybrid team? How has performance management changed? What about team morale?
Inequalities that surface now – for instance, where in-office employees can more easily collaborate; more easily socialise – could cause severe fractures that hurt long-term engagement and productivity.
HR professionals must focus on maintaining cohesion. Small actions – like Zoom lunches where remote and office-based teams eat together, or ordering pizza for everyone working late, not just those in the office – foster togetherness and help teams adapt.
The hybrid workforce is set to stay, and crucial to its success will be providing a consistent employee experience for all workers, wherever they work.
When HR gets that right, it’s not just employees who benefit. It’s the business, with improved business outcomes like increased resilience, increased productivity, increased profitability and increased retention.
This blog is part of The team that Eats together initiative, a content series exploring what normal looks like now, and how to enhance the working world to meet evolved employee expectations.
Bring the team back together, wherever they’re working.
The views and opinions expressed are based on the research conducted and they do not intend to present an official policy of Uber or any of its subsidiaries. Examples of advice mentioned in this article are based on open source information and assumptions made within the article are not reflective of Uber’s position.