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How can you manage the unmanageable? That’s the question many HR managers are facing during the novel COVID-19 pandemic. Now that most offices are empty, human resources have to figure out hi-tech ways to provide employees and executives with critical info. Indeed, as technology becomes an increasingly central part of the work experience, Human resources cannot ignore incorporating IT skills into their repertoire. 

Nobody knows exactly what the post-COVID-19 world will look like, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate on emerging trends. In this post, we’ll take a peek at how HR leaders are managing their tasks during the pandemic. Hopefully, these reflections will help people in the Human Resources field better plan for the emerging economy.   

9 Mega-Trends and Movements in Human Resources During COVID-19 

1. Physical Health Is Every Company’s Priority 

During a global pandemic, it’s no surprise everyone is placing health & well-being at the top of their priority lists. Since the coronavirus is on everyone’s minds, companies want to make employees feel as safe as they possibly can.

Human resources could play a significant role in promoting high health standards in many ways. For instance, HR managers could send timely information and reliable resources to provide some “corona clarity” to co-workers. HR representatives could also re-assure employees by letting them know their company’s high health standards and proactive strategies. If possible, HRM should also provide pertinent information on local COVID-19 screening facilities. 

Of course, HR is not healthcare, so there’s only so far HRM could go in providing accurate data on COVID-19. While human resources could give general guidelines on healthful habits, HR must focus on their company’s health insurance provider. In fact, it might be a good idea to schedule a refresher course on your company’s sick leave policies and healthcare benefits. HRM teams should also encourage employees to get checked and stay quarantined if they have COVID-like symptoms. 

If companies decide to move back to traditional offices, HRM may play an active role in maintaining official health protocols. This could include facemasks, gloves, or social distancing. Human resources might also be tasked with approving or disapproving meetings or parties depending on current pandemic conditions. 

As the coronavirus continues to spread, there’s no doubt physical health will be a top concern in HR’s daily operations. Hopefully, the experience of this global pandemic will provide companies with a blueprint for how to navigate future unforeseen issues effectively. 

2. Computerized Counseling

co-workers looking at a project on a laptop

Although physical health is paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic, HRM can’t neglect their employees’ psychological well-being. During such an unprecedented epidemic, it’s understandable why employees are seeking psychological help via HR departments. Indeed, recent data now shows many people are turning to antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to help cope with the stress of these new life circumstances.   

It’s worth mentioning, however, that everyone adapts to quarantined life differently. While some employees feel comfortable working at home, others might feel anxious about this new situation. The key to providing beneficial counseling will depend on each employee’s unique situation and personality.  

HRM also has to keep in mind that each employee’s home circumstances could play a significant role in their stress levels. Adults taking care of kids will need different accommodation versus employees who live on their own. HR leaders should be prepared to provide employees with info on how the company could best address their needs. 

As a general tip: many people in HR have also reported great success consistently reminding co-workers that “we’re all in this together.” People who use this simple mantra say it helps build morale and reminds colleagues that there’s always someone in the workforce who could lend a helping hand. 

Regardless of the situation, it is important for employers to find ways to keep their employees motivated and engaged so that they feel satisfied and not overwhelmed by their duties.

3. Burnout and High-Stress Situations

Piggybacking off of the last point, there’s a growing concern the digitized work environment could erase traditional boundaries between professional and personal relations. While this feature has certain benefits (e.g., workers have greater flexibility and feel more relaxed), it could be a significant issue for HR executives in conflict resolution cases. 

Unfortunately, we also know that domestic violence has become increasingly prevalent ever since the COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect. Also, many people who struggle with mental health issues and addictions (e.g., alcohol) are turning to substance abuse to help deal with their stress.  

HR managers should be aware of these coronavirus-related health risks and share pertinent information as they see fit. Presenting these touchy topics in a group setting could encourage vulnerable team members to seek professional help they may need. Although it may be uncomfortable, HRM teams need to know about these COVID-related issues.    

4. Maintaining Consistency in a Changing World

One way many HR departments are trying to keep employees productive during the COVID-19 pandemic is by providing transparent workflows. Yes, remote work is supposed to be flexible, but that doesn’t mean there are suddenly no standards. Creating a clear list of goals for each employee could provide a sense of purpose and consistency. These milestones could also help company executives monitor each employee’s work performance.  

In addition to setting manageable project goals, HRM could help employees adjust to the “new normal” with tips related to effective at-home work strategies. For example, HR managers often recommend their employees create a dedicated space that’s just for work. Instead of moving from the kitchen to the dining room to the bedroom, workers tend to be more productive when they have one spot primarily associated with their work routine.

5. How Does Workers’ Compensation Work For COVID-19?

Could a company legally be held responsible for the transmission of COVID-19? How do providers handle workers’ compensation claims with at-home employees? These are just a few questions attorneys and insurance providers are still scrambling to answer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these issues. Handling workers’ comp in the midst of a pandemic is a truly novel experience, as such there aren’t protocols in place on how to handle such issues. HR representatives will need to evaluate workers’ comp claims on a case-by-case basis. There are, however, a few features that stand out in this case.

In general, workers’ comp claims related to COVID-19 are most common in the healthcare industry. This makes sense considering the higher risk of COVID-19 transmissibility in hospital settings. However, since hospitals often provide ample protection and sanitization, it’s still unclear how much healthcare leaders could be held accountable.

No matter what business you’re involved in, it’s always better to invest as much as you can in creating a pristine work environment. Companies that can afford to work remotely should do so. However, if your company must interact with the public, HR reps need to inform employees on the most up-to-date CDC guidelines (e.g., plenty of hand sanitizers, six-foot distance markers, face masks, and appropriate signage).

As long as companies are taking proactive steps to combat coronavirus, employees should feel at ease. These measures will not only slow the spread of COVID-19, but they’ll also reduce the risk your company will ever have to deal with a COVID-19 lawsuit.

6. Re-Imagining Office Space

Girl enjoying her day in office - Your Freelance Career

For architects and interior designers, COVID-19 represents both a challenge and an opportunity. People involved in the construction industry are already discussing many different ways they could naturally support social distancing and use touch-free technologies in future building designs. 

Even if we get a COVID-19 vaccine in the ensuing months, buildings in the globalized era will need to account for pandemic risk. This will include measures to maintain safe distances between employees and provide touch-free resources throughout the buildings.

As an HR manager, you won’t be tasked with literally constructing buildings in response to pandemics. You might, however, have to help re-design office environments to promote social distancing. To minimize the spread of COVID-19, HR might need to develop signage to remind people to wash their hands and wear facemasks.

To ensure high hygiene standards, HRM will have to work more closely with custodial crews to check-up on sanitization. You might also be tasked with keeping tabs on new sanitation expenditures such as sanitization stations, gloves, and facemasks.  

7. “Social Gathering” & Team-Building Exercise Ideas 

Even though you can’t be in the same room with your colleagues, there are ways human resources departments could help organize “socially-distant social gatherings.” Yes, it might seem a bit crazy, but once you begin brainstorming, you’ll be amazed at how many great ideas you could use to promote camaraderie. 

One popular idea some HR managers have used is to create DIY facemasks as a group. You could also hold meetings to make soap bars or hand sanitizers. 

Human resources should also consider organizing simple anxiety-reducing meditation sessions with employees. People who meditate regularly generally have higher productivity and lower stress, both of which are especially important today.

But not all team-building exercises have to be COVID-19-related. For instance, some companies are hosting “cooking parties” where everyone logs into Zoom and prepares dinner together. You could also go on “virtual vacations” to various museums or major world cities that now offer exceptional online experiences. 

If you want to get personal with your employees, consider hosting “share my home” tours in the style of celebrity TV shows. Pet lovers might enjoy hosting colorful dress-up parties featuring employees’ cats and dogs.

As you could see, the list of team-building exercises during COVID-19 is endless. No matter what you choose, it’s significant for companies to put the time into these informal get-togethers. Some of these suggestions may seem silly, but they can help employees feel closer together during the pandemic.     

8. Building Trust In The “Remote Work Era”

A common issue people in HRM have noticed recently is that managers have become increasingly suspicious of their employees. Now that everyone is working online rather than in the office, it’s understandable why managers feel anxious about a dip in productivity. HRM has to find ways to carefully balance their manager’s “control concerns” while allowing their employees maximum flexibility.

As already mentioned, setting clear goals is a fantastic way to track productivity in this environment. However, there are other strategies HRM could use to alleviate their manager’s worries without creating an uncomfortable work environment.

For instance, some HR managers set up casual Zoom get-togethers to discuss project updates and concerns. These chats are often non-mandatory and informal. Creating this relaxed atmosphere gives employees the ability to express their concerns freely with superiors. Regular casual meetings also reduce the risk managers will resort to harmful “micro-managing” tactics.  

9. Creating A Strong Partnership With IT 

Since remote work is such a significant trend in the COVID-19 workplace, it makes sense that human resources departments are partnering with IT teams. Only IT can provide the expertise to make e-communications as smooth as possible. Having a good rapport with IT technicians will help everyone feel comfortable using your company’s software.

Human resources leaders might also begin looking into professional tech training courses to improve their tech skills. While HR employees don’t have to know all of the intricacies of working on the Web, they will benefit from whatever tech skills they develop.

In addition to fixing glitches, HRM and IT departments must focus on empowering employees to make the most of their digital toolkit. It might become mandatory to schedule tech education courses to lift everyone’s technical proficiency to an equal level. HRM could also work with IT to create easy-to-follow software tutorials for staff members. 

If employees are consistently struggling with tech-related issues, HRM should know how to provide proper assistance. A thorough background in computing will help HRM give employees the skills they need to succeed online.   

employees talking with each other discussing about mental well-being

Where Is Human Resources Headed In The New Economy?

Please remember, everything listed above is only based on current human resources trends. The coronavirus is a continually changing situation with many complex factors we haven’t even begun to wrap our heads around. However, there’s little doubt that digitization will play a crucial role in how we work post-COVID-19. human resources teams should use this opportunity to refine their technical skills, engage with their teams, and prepare future pandemic response accordingly.  


Additional Reading:

Written By
Maxine Carter is a Human Resource Manager in Philadelphia. She has managed complex human-resource-related projects over the past decade in the Healthcare, Legal, and IT industries.

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