How to ensure employees remain productive as we return to work in a COVID world

productivity

As a HR team, while supporting employees is top priority, it is also important to keep sight of your business’ overall goals. The quicker you are to adapt to new technology, the more likely you are to keep your employees engaged, customers happy and ultimately stay ahead of competition, writes Brad Newton, Vice President & GM, APAC, DocuSign.

COVID-19 changed everything, fast, especially for HR leaders. One day, hundreds of thousands of people were working in offices and the next they were at home. While nine in ten workers say they’re happy with how their company adapted to the mass transition to remote working, only 20 per cent strongly agree their employers are prepared for a new way of working.

This is due to the fact that as we return to work in a COVID world, Australian workers have a higher expectation to be able to work from home – 48 per cent are likely to work remotely most of the time, compared to 30 per cent beforehand.

The quicker you are to adapt to new technology, the more likely you are to keep your employees engaged, customers happy and ultimately stay ahead of competition.

With this in mind, HR teams and executives have an important role to play in engaging employees as we start to return to work in a COVID world. As the future of work requires a focus on enabling productivity among a disparate workforce, let’s take a closer look at how to meet the changing needs and expectations of our employees:

  1. Foster a culture of trust

I have been pleased to see how Australian office workers have experienced true mobility during the enforced lockdown of COVID-19. This period has shown us that employees don’t need to be in the office to complete their work, and it’s up to HR to continue driving trust and flexibility across their organisation.

Luckily, efficient, effective communication is simple to achieve with tools like Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which are changing the way we connect. Simple ideas like encouraging team members to turn on their camera during a meeting, or have the leaders host weekly get-togethers to give employees a place to chat and voice any wins or struggles they may be experiencing at home can deliver great benefits to team camaraderie. Achieving a trust-driven work culture will empower employees to take increased ownership of their work and supports the idea that remote is the new way of work.

  1. Remember every employee’s situation is different

The lockdown period has made it clear that work-life balance is as much part of the workplace puzzle than any other piece. Recent research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that during COVID-19, parents made changes to their work arrangements to care for their children by either working from home (38 per cent), reducing or changing working hours (22 per cent) and taking extra leave from work (13 per cent).

Not only are parents finding the ability to agile work a success, 48 per cent of workers in general appreciate the absence of the office commute and 46 per cent feel their productivity is benefiting from having more dynamic hours that fall outside the typical 9-5 day. People are attracted to working from home as it works better for them, so HR teams should encourage employees to shape out their own work routine – one that strikes a better balance between life and work without compromising productivity and deliverables.

The lockdown period has made it clear that work-life balance is as much part of the workplace puzzle than any other piece.

  1. Use digital tools to fuel productivity

As a HR team, while supporting employees is top priority, it is also important to keep sight of your business’ overall goals. The quicker you are to adapt to new technology, the more likely you are to keep your employees engaged, customers happy and ultimately stay ahead of competition. While tools like Zoom are great, let’s keep in mind that as employees return to work, they’ll have a cascade of new digital skills that they’ve learnt as a result of this mindset.

This period has shown us that employees don’t need to be in the office to complete their work, and it’s up to HR to continue driving trust and flexibility across their organisation.

Providing digital solutions that enable employees to easily facilitate remote is one way to do exactly that. Local organisation HR Central is a good example, having permanently transitioned to cloud-based solutions to support and help their staff adjust to working from their home environment.

Looking ahead
It is clear that the changes to work life brought on by COVID-19 are here to stay. For HR teams, understanding that each employee has unique circumstances, and that working remotely means something different to everyone, is key to ensuring a smooth transition. Now is the time for HR teams to lead the way in driving productivity as we shift from reacting to COVID-19, to reviving the way we work.

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