By Salina Williams, Senior Consultant
On February 25, 2021 Feldman Daxon Partners hosted four simultaneous webinars with over 80 HR professionals from 10 industry sectors, responsible for over 250,000 employees in Canada. These dynamic groups shared multiple responses, program designs, and HR driven strategic changes instituted over the last year.
Discussions highlighted how crisis intervention strategies have transformed workplaces, and how many of these changes will permanently reshape organizations. Major themes that ran through these conversations included:
Health and Wellness:
- Organizations are creating programs to educate employees on vaccines and the vaccination process with a focus on providing employees with relevant, up to date information to guide their decisions.
- Many leaders are shifting employee discussions to focus on ensuring a work/life balance and setting boundaries around work hours. Some are even incorporating this into performance management and development. Companies are encouraging employees to not work evenings and weekends, to be better at saying “no” when the workload is too much and are even starting to provide incentives to change behaviour to better manage burnout.
- Examples of online wellness activities include virtual yoga sessions, guest speakers, a “Mind Body Soul campaign,” and meditation classes to manage stress.
- Numerous organizations have formed mental health committees to reduce stress which has resulted in whole new ways of connecting and supporting employees.
- New types of family-focused programs are being introduced including virtual lunch hour magic shows, game times, and trivia for the children of employees, creating a break that brings the whole family together.
- In some cases, organizations have incorporated virtual ergonomic home assessments to determine if workspaces are safe and employees have necessary equipment for their health.
- Many organizations are significantly increasing the annual benefit amount per employee for mental health counselling activities.
Return to Office:
- Much like a return from a long-term absence, many organizations are planning to bring employees back to work gradually with a phased plan of slowly returning to time in the office.
- One company’s survey results illustrated that only 4% of employees wanted to go back to the office and 65% wanted a hybrid, while the remaining 31% wanted to stay home.
- Some organizations have developed a return to office app to book office space with pre-screening questions.
- Some companies will be giving employees the option of returning to the office or remaining at home, while others are mandating based on roles and responsibilities.
- Those in essential services are increasingly having to manage employees refusing to return to work.
- Some companies are renovating to incorporate additional spaces for collaborative meetings with larger, open workspaces and no private offices.
- Working remotely has impacted the long-standing belief that presence in the office and time spent working equals productivity. Given the success many have had working from home, this belief is changing to “results equal productivity.”
- Many organizations are dealing with numerous employees moving from urban to rural areas prior to securing the ability to work remotely on a full-time basis. Some companies are adapting new policies as a result, while others are planning to mandate a return to work in the office. Questions remain regarding the legal implications of both strategies.
- Some stated that working remotely allows both employees to relocate and employers to recruit from areas they did not have access to previously. Those organizations who support remote work now have a much broader talent pool to source from by not being limited by geography.
- Many organizations are recognizing that some employees working from home live in small spaces, are home schooling children, or are in homes with multi-generational families. Programs are being designed to support the demands that these employees are facing.
- Some organizations noted significant friction between employees who were able to work remotely and those whose roles demanded that they be in the workplace.
- In some cases, leaders have found that employees are quitting if they cannot work remotely, and talent acquisition specialists voiced concern about recruitment strategies and employer branding if an organization is not open to remote work.
The Digital Shift:
- Organizations have quickly adapted new technology to support how employees work, learn, and socialize including virtual “drop in lunchrooms”, regular “on camera” town hall meetings (for up to 1,000 employees), and digital leadership programs
- People are now applying for roles outside of their geographical area; recruitment and onboarding has shifted to being done virtually.
The pandemic has acted as an accelerator for strategic transformation of the workplace. Many leaders, previously opposed to employees working remotely, have had a shift in mindset. Growth and opportunities to learn are being presented every day as leaders are required to flex with the changes the pandemic brings. Being agile, resilient, and optimistic, while at the same time focusing on mental and physical health, has never been more important.