If there’s one thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has done, it’s to change the very meaning and scope of the word ‘employment’. What earlier meant being at the physical beck and call of an employer has today moved online to mean being there, and at the same time, not being there.
Yes, the pandemic has affected us, but thankfully, technology has stepped in and filled the gaps in ways unthinkable. Some of them being novel and yet to be fully deciphered and appreciated. That said, not all of the new ideas of work-from-home work in favour of both employer and employee.
From experience, we have filtered down a handful of tips which could help close the employee-employer divide that seems to have developed in these pandemic times. This is certainly not to say that the entire order is bad but to get the best of a remote way of working, remembering these tips could greatly help enhance productivity be it now or in the future while keeping relations positive and positively exuberant.
1. Daily face to face meetings are a must
From the time that humans first became sociable beings to the present, if there’s one way of staying in touch productively and positively, it’s through in-person face-to-face meetings. This is one of the best ways to know the situation, the person and the matter at hand. Also, this is one of the best ways to communicate the important and at times painful matters which cannot be done in crowded surroundings. Working alone at home is anything but easy beyond a point given the loneliness and boredom that creeps in and the lack of colleagues who invariably are the best stress-busters. In the absence of the same, one-to-one meetings should be encouraged, be it between superiors and subordinates or between colleagues. These one-to-one in the present situation may take the form of online meets, the most effective, given the situation.
2. Incorporate in-person meetings where the same is feasible
The pandemic has put paid to the idea of in-person meetings given the danger of the virus spreading. That said, one cannot carry on endlessly without meeting the person at the other end, be it a senior, a junior or a colleague. Chemistry is what forms when people meet in person, and if the same is positive, can result in taking organizational work to newer heights. In the present situation, and so too in the case of companies that have declared “work from home” as a norm henceforth, there should be set procedures to meet office folks at certain times, like once or twice a month for a certain number of hours. One’s performance vis-à-vis those in the organization, whether one’s work is appreciated or otherwise, what additional needs to be done etc are issues that can best be clarified in an office-type setting. Also, meeting colleagues in person gives out all the grapevine news as to who does what, something one may need to know to exist and grow in the organization.
3. Online meeting can be quite tiring so structure them for maximum effect
Employee engagement during the pandemic and even after that for those who have declared permanent “WFH” means either phone calls with/ without video or similar chats in chat-rooms with or without other participants. Constantly peering at a screen in a semi-darkened room can strain the eyes. The best of internet connection does not guarantee uptime all the while which means one is left staring at a screen which has frozen or has to continuously strain to listen to either gibberish or voices at very low volumes. Doing that for the better part of a day means that in time the participant feels quite drained out. It’s precisely for these reasons that in-person online meetings or those in conference formats should be held only with a firm agenda in mind with a clear understanding that in the event of technology playing truant, they either end the meeting right there or move to voice mode.
4. Routine work (like accounts, finance, HR etc) should be encouraged to be tech-based.
Office work typically is either strategy-driven which involves decision making, taking charge and leading from the front or are activities that emanate from these decisions like meetings to know of status, follow-ups, taking charge of production/ service deliveries, accounting and finance, human-resource issues and so on. The former cannot be framed into any “system” given the very nature of the activities therein and what it may entail. The latter can and should always be system-driven to the extent possible because in doing so, time and efforts can be saved and outcomes can be made to be result-oriented, open and clear. Accountability across the organization shall thus go up. As far as employee-engagement goes, a systems approach brings a lot more clarity without the need for constant supervision and reporting, issues which rankle most folks in organizations, besides reducing productivity.
5. HR-related issues should move to a self-service model
Human resource in any organization is it’s most dynamic and also the reason things get dynamited if not handled with care and alacrity. What employment engagement in the times of Covid-19 pandemic has taught us is that when things move far away in physical terms and travel is an unnecessary pain, the organization ought to give the employee some leeway when it comes to entering personal details like leave applications, bills, queries etc. Ideally, these should be put through a cloud-based system so that they become equally accessible everywhere. In doing so, the patience of all is saved which leads to lesser conflict and as a consequence, higher productivity with a feeling of quite a satisfaction.
6. If need be, employers should conduct employee engagement surveys
Detailed employee engagement surveys when filled from the convenience and seclusion of one’s homes invariably reflect one’s most profound of feelings and understanding. This, if done at regular intervals, could reveal what the existing system of employee engagement lacks and also ways to fix it. Sometimes the feedback could be purely personal in which case, a detailed one-to-one with the employee/ associate could change things for the better, both for the organization as also the person filling in the details.
There’s a lot more to be done when a pandemic hits the world of employment as can be seen in the present situation. Being a completely new experience, humanity is yet to understand its full impact and device course correction strategies. For a start, the above steps may help. These invariably will be added to with time given that the pandemic has changed not only the dynamics of employment but also our understanding of industries, organizations, productivity, earnings and so on.