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Managing human resources through the pandemic

Remote work – the new normality?

By Łukasz Chodkowski, managing director, Déhora Poland
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When analysing the current situation at the labour market, it’s worth checking the predictions we made back in April regarding to HR challenges ahead.

At that time, we said that the most important one would be to provide employees with the feeling that  standards of physical safety are being taken seriously. And indeed that was initially a priority for employers. But what about ensuring mental health support? In the first phase of the pandemic, it was also important to clearly define how companies will support the financial security of their employees in difficult moments in the near future; other employee issues were relegated to the background.

How is it today? The safety culture of workplaces in connection with the coronavirus epidemic currently requires from the organisation consistent communication, employer-employee cooperation, trust in direct superiors and joint responsibility. Employers must provide better support to employees who may be suffering from mental health issues exacerbated this year by lockdown, forced remote work and a lack of contact with other employees. The pandemic has had dramatically changed the way people work, and had a profound impact on their mental health. Even before Covid-19, employers began to recognise mental health as a growing problem in the workplace; now it is likely to get worse over the next few years.

The blurring of the fine line between professional duties and private life is very dangerous and strongly affects not only the employees themselves, but also affects their immediate environment and thus their professional performance. Many people believe that the perfect cure from burnout is changing jobs – but in the current situation, the problem of that blurred border will not necessarily disappear with a change of job.

How are Polish employers coping with remote work nowadays?

Together with the DGTL Law Firm, we carried out a unique research project during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Many phenomena that seemed obvious to us were confirmed by the answers to the questionnaries but then many others were surprising. An example is the fact that 60% of the respondents –  representatives of HR departments, did not monitor the remote work of their employees. It is surprising that only 22% decided to reduce the working hours, and 32% to change the schedule of the working time itself. On the other hand, as many as 62% of respondents declare that the pandemic will make it necessary to adjust the long-term human resource management strategy to the new economic situation. A review of internal HR regulations is planned by 60% of respondents in the next six months, and 18% in the next twelve months. Our project proves that HR departments have matured and consciously faced one of the greatest challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, flexibly approaching the challenges of remote work.

Social cohesion and trust are key ingredients in creating a productive workforce, but there will be a number of additional circumstances that will put pressure on them in the coming weeks and months. Leaders will need to establish a new governance framework to drive positive changes in workplaces, especially intangible ones, otherwise they risk losing momentum.

It seems that the return to the past and the current work system as we know it is impossible to implement. Remote work combined with an office system, or work in manufacturing production in a system of separate and independent teams, with a consistent employment policy with transparent rules of the system and working time itself – and an honest method of employee evaluation is the future of the labour market and economy.

More in Managing human resources through the pandemic :

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