Author: Cindy Hanauer
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic and residual effect on the workplace, resulting in vast changes to the way in which people work. While some of these changes have been positive, some have caused a great deal of disruption, creating both positive and negative effects.
One of the major changes that have occurred as a result of the pandemic is the rise of remote working. With employees now able to work from home, companies have had to quickly adapt to this new way of operating. This has required a great deal of organizational restructuring, such as investing in secure internal networks, ensuring data protection standards are met, and providing feedback and support for employees who are now remote.
Working from home has also forced many employees to quickly learn how to use different technologies to stay connected with coworkers, such as video conferencing and various communication platforms.
As the pandemic has become less of a national threat, many employees have continued to lobby to continue to work remotely. As a result, many management teams struggle with the perceived pitfalls of managing remote employees:
- Lack of Team Cohesion: Building relationships and a sense of team spirit can be difficult when employees work remotely. This disconnect can cause misunderstandings and reduce productivity.
- Trust Issues: Some managers may feel it is difficult to trust remote employees. This could ultimately lead to micromanaging or lack of motivation.
- Communication Difficulties: Making sure everyone is on the same page can be challenging without face-to-face contact. Communication technology is not always perfect, and misunderstandings can occur.
- Limited Access to Company Resources: If an employee works remotely, they do not have access to the same tools that they would if in-office. This can reduce their productivity and prevent optimal performance.
- Distractions: Working from home can be a very distracting environment. Some employees are unable to focus on the task at hand while in the comfort of their own home.
Another significant change is the necessity of more stringent workplace safety protocols. Companies have had to invest in personal protective equipment, such as face masks and hand sanitizers, as well as other measures such as social distancing and staggered working hours. Although the worst part of the pandemic is reportedly over, a number of these safety protocols remain in place. Not only do these procedures ensure the safety of employees, but they also allow companies to resume operations while trying to keep all infectious disease rates low.
Disruptions to the workplace have also brought changes to employee morale. The stresses and anxieties caused by the pandemic and other newer infectious diseases can still affect how employees feel about their jobs, which in turn affects productivity. Employers must be aware of this issue and implement measures to raise morale, such as regular communication with employees, flexible working hours, and additional safety training.
The rise of remote working has also seen a greater focus on flexible working patterns. Companies are now recognizing the importance of work-life balance, which has led to a shift in the traditional 9-5 culture. With people now working from home, employers are encouraging employees to adopt more flexible working patterns, such as setting their own working hours or taking longer lunch breaks.
Finally, the pandemic has impacted the way companies recruit and select staff. More interviews and assessments now take place virtually, which provides both challenges and opportunities. For example, the interviews may be shorter or less formal than before, but this also means there are fewer opportunities for recruiters to get to know the applicants.
Overall, it is clear to see that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many lasting changes to the way employees work. Whether these changes are beneficial or detrimental is largely dependent on the company, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated the move towards a more digital and flexible workforce. By embracing these changes, companies can ensure that their employees are better supported and are working in an efficient and safe environment.