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How Can Leaders Effectively Manage a Disrupted Workforce?

By Sam Boyd, Associate Consultant 

Who knew a worldwide pandemic would make such a difference to a working week? 

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our personal and professional lives forever. 

Since the pandemic began, many employees have been forced to adopt a new normal of working from home. Before the pandemic, 15% of U.S. employees worked from home at least once a week. Since this point, half of all employees in the U.S. have been conducting their work on a remote basis. 

This swift momentum change has raised questions about remote working. One survey with 441 global HR leads discussed the most pressing issues their organisations faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, their actions, and what worked for their organisations. The most notable concerns were – protecting the health & well-being of employees (22%), preserving jobs (12%), and complying with government regulations (6%) – reflecting some challenges of dealing with the public health crisis and economic downturn.   

One-fifth of leaders revealed specific concerns around the abrupt surge in remote work. Some included keeping remote employees engaged (17%), productivity levels (7%) and connection to the organisation (5%) as specific factors. Organisations have been able to experiment with creative solutions to these problems. 

How do organisations help employees transition to remote work? 

Providing computer hardware, internet support, and tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom allows fluid team engagement and communication.   

Most epidemiologists predict recurring and future outbreaks of COVID 19, with many employees continuing to work at home for the foreseeable future and some having the ability to move into permanent remote models. In addition, some workforces plan to shift to full-time remote work after successes during the pandemic. 

Communication 

When employees work from home, there is a compromising factor that they feel disconnected from their organisations, 47% stating effective communication is a crucial component in the transition to remote working. Many characteristics come to mind around this topic – clear and consistent communication, led from the top, is critical, alongside clarity on job expectations. 

Physical & Mental health 

Throughout this pandemic, 15% of employees stated that company-sponsored COVID-19 tests as positive actions to protect employees’ physical well-being. The more significant challenge is mental well-being. 

The most effective step to battle this constant concern is for line managers & leaders to check in on employees’ well-being to ensure they are doing everything personally and professionally. 

Some organisations have frequently arranged online training sessions and open forums to overcome social isolation. Furthermore, sharing mental wellness resources, offering health counselling services and more emphasis on coaching managers/leaders to support and develop wellness in their teams. 

Manage the Remote work–Life Balances 

The work-life balance always poses a question or two. On the one hand, working from home cuts down employees’ daily commuting journeys and allows people to adjust their schedules and spend more time with their families and friends. One study in 2021 has shown that employees were willing to accept a pay cut of 8% for a fully remote role. The popularity of remote work helps explain why employers across the U.S. offering working from home options doubled before the COVID-19 outbreaks. 

On the other hand, remote work can leave employees feeling like they must be available 24 hours a day. Working more hours can often obscure the boundary between professional and personal lives. The most popular way to help employees manage work-life balance whilst working remotely includes adjusting employees’ workloads to accommodate family responsibilities. 

Strategic Significance  

Over 70% of companies have consciously circulated strategic priorities and published them across specific organisations, even before the pandemic. This has allowed organisations to expand products and services, develop talent, and execute a digital transformation. 

In many cases, strategic objectives set before COVID-19 will remain essential and provide opportunities to accelerate progression on strategic priorities. The abrupt shift to remote working has provided organisations extensive opportunities to revaluate processes to boost overall efficiency, develop & accelerate their individual and collective transformation and the impact it can have on an organisation. 

Remote working is here to stay and will bring new challenges and opportunities. Leaders need to lead by example, not waiting for definitive results from other organisations – with a conscious effort to continue developing employees and organisations’ momentum shift to remote work.    

At Fraser Dove International, we help life science organisations to perfect their talent ecosystem across the value chain. We have a select toolkit to help attract, assess, onboard, and retain your employees while primarily supporting searches for the best talent. By perfecting this ecosystem, you can ensure you find the right talent that makes a more significant impact, faster, for longer. 

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