Covid-19 pandemic connects HR to new opportunities

Since the pandemic, employee wellness has evolved into a 360-degree approach.

Most human resource professionals will attest: HR in a post-pandemic world looks quite different to just a few years ago. For one thing, companies have become far more in tune with their employees’ needs from a physical, mental, emotional and professional perspective than ever before.

The “Great Resignation” that took place over the last two years had a lot to do with this, as stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression became commonplace among employees under lockdown and the lines between life and work were unhealthily blurred. Employees increasingly jumped ship on companies, feeling the need to find work that fulfilled them, instead of spending time in jobs they disliked.

Prioritising health and wellness

For workers in the ICT and telecommunications industry in particular, who were deemed essential during those first gloomy and extremely challenging days of lockdown, hours were long and demanding – people across the country needed connectivity and they needed it now, and our teams worked tirelessly to help light up more homes in more neighbourhoods with fibre connectivity.

The fear was that this unprecedented increase in workload would soon take its toll on our people. As HR professionals, working strategically alongside leadership teams, we had to adapt and act quickly to the changing environment and new world of work into which we were all plunged, to safeguard the overall wellbeing of employees.

As a result, across industries, employee wellness has evolved into a 360-degree approach that takes into consideration the whole person – their professional, social, physical, emotional and mental health needs.

Providing employees with the tools they need to work from home effectively, such as laptops, connectivity and UPS devices that can be used during loadshedding, was a simple but crucial first step in this process, as workers can’t be expected to perform without this.

Increased one-on-one check-ins with managers (what we at Vuma call “huddles”), wellness webinars, and encouraging people to switch off and take time off are other important aspects that many companies have employed too.

Allowing the inevitable shift away from the “traditional” office to take its course, and being more flexible to the needs of employees is a reality companies cannot shy away from. After many months of remote working, people have become accustomed to being able to use the time in their days as they see fit, while still being able to get their work done. Rather than run away from it, it has become crucial that companies create an enabling environment around the hybrid work model, as this is clearly the basis of the future world of work.

Embracing a new era of recruitment and company culture

Talent acquisition and retention was already a challenging area long before the pandemic, as companies scrambled to figure out how to attract and retain millennials equipped with the 4IR skills that are, and will increasingly be, in high demand in the workplace.

Just as companies are expected to let go of traditional work structures and be more flexible, so too are managers expected to adjust their approaches to leading their teams and meeting targets, moving away from normative views and being more trusting of individuals’ ability to perform efficiently no matter where they work from, without micromanaging.

All of this has also changed dynamics from a performance management perspective. HR and management teams alike are increasingly making use of data and analytics to identify problem and praise areas, and analyse performance more effectively. This allows for more productive performance management conversations with employees, as well as better, more data-driven decision-making for the business.

All these shifts in internal structures will, of course, have an impact on company cultures in the future, with the goal being to create more inclusive, cohesive, goal-oriented and enabling cultures in which people and businesses thrive.

The direction in which HR is headed is rooted in how companies, HR and leadership teams, and workforces view and adapt to the inevitable shifts that are taking place as a result of the pandemic. Embracing these changes is key to realising the future world of work that the world envisions.

Fifi is an HR executive at Vumatel.