COVID-19: Preparing your business for the next wave

Lyndy van den Barselaar, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup SA

By Lyndy van den Barselaar, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup SA

We are now almost a full year into the worst pandemic of the century, and with cases in South Africa continually on the rise, it is fair to say that Covid-19 is far from over. Many businesses have reopened in some form, while others continue to operate almost entirely remotely. Regardless of the nature of your business operations, employees need continuous support from their organisations to be prepared for the next wave. So, what should your business be doing? 

OPTIMISING REMOTE INFRASTRUCTURE

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled businesses to shutter their offices and call on employees who could work remotely to do so with very little notice. The rush to remote work brought with it a number of challenges for organisations and employees. Leading the list of challenges, was technology. 

Having the technical infrastructure in place to enable secure access to the services and information necessary to support remote workers is of critical importance. With the aid of rapidly evolving technologies, most employees were already familiar with the use of email, chat and texting as platforms for communication with colleagues and associates before the pandemic. Further to this, the events of 2020 forced those companies that were not already using them to rely on technologies like cloud computing, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google to allow employees access to one another and to enable them to perform their work both at the office and from home.

While it remains uncertain how long the pandemic will require employees to work from home or whether working remotely will become more commonplace, one thing is certain; organisations, big and small, need to have plans in place for unexpected stay-home mandates. Additionally, it is critical that they give precedence to investments in the technology and infrastructure that facilitate remote work.

PROMOTING WORK LIFE BALANCE

Those employers who are devoted to providing environments that support work-life balance for their employees are more likely to succeed during times of crisis and to enjoy a more loyal and productive workforce. 

The numerous ways in which this can be achieved include encouraging employees to take time off and not expecting overtime to be the norm. Another effective means to promote a healthy work-life balance is to educate employees by offering seminars or courses explaining what work-life balance is, why it is imperative, and different things they can do to achieve it.

Further to this, managers should keep the lines of communication open and encourage employees to express their grievances and offer personal tips and suggestions that have proven effective for them.

ENSURING ACCESS TO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT  

More than ever, employees are experiencing increasing levels of fear and anxiety as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Uncertainties pertaining to the state of their health, employment and the future are leading to feelings of even more heightened levels of stress and tension. 

As difficult as it may be,  this provides the perfect opportunity for leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. A few ways in which employers can support their employees during this trying time include the utilisation of technology to provide access to a variety of mental health resources, such as licensed counsellors and psychologists, meditation platforms and virtual education for employees focused on coping mechanisms and stress management.

RECALIBRATING KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

As we near the one year mark of the pandemic, it has become clear that the traditional metrics used to measure employee performance are not only misleading, but also insufficient for assessing work-from-home performance. 

Working in isolation and the need to achieve more with less increases the level of stress felt by individuals, hence a better-articulated measure is needed to assess employee productivity.

The recalibration of individual key performance indicators (KPIs) is crucial to the efficacy of remote work and ensuring that it is evaluated accordingly. When employing remote workforce monitoring, trust and transparency are key factors so as to ensure that it doesn’t appear to be intrusive and exploitative.

Additionally, it has become increasingly important to evaluate soft skills as well as hard skills, hence measurement needs to have a qualitative element to it. In other words, the focus needs to be more on the quality of work than the quantity. 

SETTING AND ADJUSTING BUSINESS AND PERSONAL GOALS 

In times of crisis business owners are likely managing a host of competing priorities. Although many things may be put on hold, it is now more critical than ever to reiterate your business visions and goals.

Goal setting has shown to increase employee engagement in the face of obstacles. In addition to changing priorities, many businesses are also likely dealing with significant operational shifts, such as converting an entire workforce into a remote one. In this regard, virtual teams will face unique challenges with communication and collaboration. When leaders focus on those things that can be accomplished together, it can go a long way to removing the barriers of working remotely. 

When you clearly communicate goals and unite your team efforts, it gives people a degree of certainty and a sense of clarity. Simply put, goal setting supports alignment and enables a mutual understanding of the unified steps teams can take to ensure success, especially during these challenging times.

Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za