I will start with a statement: Employees are the backbone of businesses.
Every business has employees, and even the owner is an employee. COVID-19 helped every business innovate new ways to handle activities as well as human assets. Every business came up with a modified work structure, e.g., traditional with flexibility, traditional with high tolerance for employee time off, or hybrid work from home.
The biggest challenge in all this was to keep the business running while accommodating employees’ personal and family issues. So, scheduling employees and managing their COVID-related issues and concerns became a leadership challenge. And one of the biggest challenges for the leadership was keeping people together as a team and keeping them productive. The large-scale remote working was a great idea to keep support staff performing from their own comfort zone, but high-quality leadership was tested by Human Resources (HR) issues and employee relations.
As new leaders evolved, some matched with the company’s mission or the CEO’s goals, and some got frustrated with bending rules under COVID’s cover and went back into their cocoon. As the virtual industry has evolved, some businesses have carved out niches in areas of growing demand such as mental health support, leadership development, part- or full-time flexible hours of work, supplying part-timers, and outsourcing work. As production and delivery areas grew, the fundamental HR support area fell back—or fell apart.
HR is still a fully human operation, and there are no automations or alternatives. So, with HR employees falling victim to COVID-related sicknesses or childcare challenges, the employer depending on them to manage the other employees had no option but to delay decisions or make them based on federal, state, or Centers for Disease Control guidelines or based on experience from a similar case within the organization. This practice reduced the value of HR in smaller employee businesses and increased power in larger ones.
Recognition, Restructuring, and Reboarding
As COVID-19 is either phasing from pandemic to endemic status, or as fears subside, the reboarding process has started. Reboarding in business will start with restructuring some of the flexibilities given to the employees. Business has to work on recognizing those employees who helped them pull through the last three years of the rough time, orienting new employees with shared workspace, reassigning job functions, and building cohorts and encouraging bonding among employees who are still uncomfortable taking their guards down with increased awareness of the social distancing. HR must increase supervision carefully so employees do not feel as if they are being questioned or watched over the shoulder. HR should provide employees with the team building environment and flexibility to perform “all duties as assigned” in a non-union environment.
Those employees with an “all duties as assigned” motto will be valued higher in an organization, might get higher raises, or be given preferential treatment with greater flexibility. Leaders with a similar motto will be in demand and climb the corporate ladder. And, overall, this motto will reduce stress, thus bringing good health. So, I’m in for a resolution that has the positive side effect of good mental health.
Rajendra Shah is director, mechanical services, at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ. He can be reached at email@example.com. This is his first article for Facilities Manager.