How has the pandemic changed the labor market
The last year has reminded us of an important lesson: life is unpredictable and we cannot be 100% prepared for certain changes, but we can adapt quickly if the situation demands. We have been living in a “new normal” for some time, in which we include the habits we had before the pandemic, and why not, even certain opportunities that can change our lifestyle for the better. At some point, things will return to a balance, but the effects of the changes that have taken effect during the health crisis are already beginning to make their presence known.
Reinventing HR departments
The “Covid-19 problem” did not come alone, as for many companies in Romania and beyond, it also meant an internal crisis. Thus, most looked to HR departments for a “life-saving solution.” Changing work schedules, but also work styles, granting of the technical unemployment, imposed restrictions, introducing Kurzarbeit, internal communication, all “have fallen to” the human resources departments.
If until now HR was seen strictly as a support department when changes related to staff occurred, from now on it will also have a transformational role. Organizations have fully understood the importance of the flexibility and adaptability that HR has managed in recent times.
No “9 to 5” schedules
A few years ago, we would not have thought that it was possible to adopt the remote working system, “working from home” was thought of more like a kind of vacation, still, the pandemic turned it into reality. More and more companies are moving to fully remote schedules for some or all of their employees. A “hybrid working model”, i.e. a mixture of remote and office work, is the option most of us want. This balances the obvious benefits of direct human interaction and the promotion of the company’s culture through their physical presence, but also of the familiar workspace for those who can carry out their activity uninterruptedly at home.
The key towards success will be the way in which all of these elements will be implemented on paper, and not just in theory, as listening and understanding the needs of employees is the first step in that regard. Moreover, new ways of evaluating employees will be applied, such as “quality over quantity” approaches, their performance being rewarded based on the results they yield, to the detriment of the number of hours they work.
The period of restrictions was a good test, especially for state institutions. At the European level, citizens can solve most of the “problems” they have in relation to the state with a single “click”. In Romania, this is “somewhat more complicated”, sometimes even impossible. Thus, regardless of how public institutions have handled the situation, it has become clear that bureaucracy can be reduced, a large part of state employees can work from home, and that an ICT (Information and Communications Technology) infrastructure is fundamental not only for crises. In the age of speed, it is normal for the interaction with state institutions to gradually take place in an online environment.
Recently, we have seen that things are starting to develop in a concrete way, as there is already an institution in the country that has introduced a task management software for their workflow, namely Asana.
Such practices can also be introduced in the private sector. All physical interactions between work teams or between members of different departments proved to be easily replaced in the state of emergency, and subsequently in the readiness state. The endless meetings turned into short meetings on Zoom and in some situations just an email.
Also with regards to the private sector, constrained by circumstances, companies have experimented this year with the Agile management practices, being forced to test and develop services or products in parallel, to remain active.
Empathy within the manager-employee relationship
Transitioning into a healthy organizational culture, that also corresponds to the new requirements of the labor market, will place an even greater emphasis on “soft” skills, such as empathy, communication, and trust. Although managers said they felt ready for 2020, most needed support to handle the new situation. Therefore, companies will begin to invest in the development of these practices, which aim to help people in management positions to meet the challenges that may arise in their work. Moreover, it is recommended to show empathy towards employees as well.
Employee health will be prioritized
Unfortunately, before the pandemic, there was no talk of the staff’s mental or physical condition. Nowadays, things are different, many employers introducing special medical support packages for employees. We are different, and for those who prefer “belonging to a group”, isolation can cause depression, anxiety, or other unwanted problems. Physical and social distancing has only exacerbated these problems. Companies will more responsibly address benefit packages to include mental health issues.
Since last year, the world is still constantly changing, some changes being even welcome. Trends that seemed impossible became a reality, overturning pre-established patterns. Thus, entrepreneurs were “challenged” to formulate business models that fit a reconfigured economic environment.
What changes have you noticed?