How HR and Technology Will Continue to Shake Up the Post-Pandemic Workforce
The intense disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic caused a tectonic shift in the way many business owners saw technology. Technology went from the thing they knew they should be using, to the thing they needed to survive.
As businesses plan for what’s next and reevaluate what work may look like in the following months and years, marrying HR and technology can help employers better prioritize employee well-being, facilitate communication, make more informed business decisions and support the increasingly important “whole person” experience, making a strong case for the value of technology.
Support employee well-being
It’s never been more important to offer grace and patience to employees as personal challenges have become more prevalent throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. With the transition to virtual work, the lines between home and the workplace have blurred, and businesses must now find ways to support the whole person. In fact, for many, work is no longer simply a place of employment, but rather a lifeline of human connection, even from afar, in a time when connecting with others has never been more important.
As working remotely becomes normalized, and in some cases permanent, it will be vital that employers remain connected to their employees and committed to supporting their overall well-being. A recent survey from Paychex, Inc. showed that 31% of employees are experiencing more anxiety in the post-Covid-19 world and another 24% are lacking enthusiasm for their job. Technology, such as video-conferencing platforms and instant messengers, plays a large part in supporting employees virtually, and when used meaningfully, can enable managers to have one-on-one conversations remotely, allowing for much-needed face-to-face interactions to determine what is on employees’ plates, professionally and personally. Through these virtual conversations, managers may be able to better understand what kind of support employees need and can direct them to helpful resources quickly and discretely.
With technology, employers can also help employees gain access to the tools they need to feel supported. There are a wide range of solutions employers can offer those seeking assistance, including counseling without referrals, virtual support groups and employee assistance programs (EAPs). To help with accessibility challenges, employers can provide training sessions to show employees how to navigate the features and benefits offered to them, so they know exactly where to turn if necessary.
There is a flip side to the increased use of technology, however. With a lack of divide between work and home life, employees may feel obligated to always be available and responsive, leaning towards a potentially problematic “always on” mentality. According to recent research, 70% of workers who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45% say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did pre-pandemic.
While apps on our phones for email and instant messaging are key to communicating effectively during the work day, they also make employees always accessible. Part of an employer’s role in fostering employees’ wellbeing is to emphasize that the 24/7 connectivity afforded by technology is not a directive to be engaged with work 24/7. Stepping away from the virtual office and coming back refreshed the next day can help stop burnout in its tracks if these steps are encouraged from the top down early on. Beyond that, there are potential wage and hour considerations that employers will need to factor in if non-exempt employees are working additional hours and that is not being tracked properly, as they must of course be paid for all time worked.
Facilitate remote communication and connection
While at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic many employers assumed a virtual workforce would be a temporary arrangement to address the dangers caused by the virus, it’s now being viewed as the future of how work gets done. According to recent research, only 11% of employers report that they expect to require all their workers to return to the office full-time. In fact, about a third say that 40% or more of their workforce will be primarily remote.
Whether employers offer employees the option to work remote full-time or if it’s more of a hybrid model, there will likely be the continued need for business owners and HR leaders to leverage technology to foster employee connections. As such, the business conversation is now shifting towards building remote connections, which are facilitated through increased communication. This can include instituting companywide standards around in-person versus video-conference meetings, investing in video-conferencing technology in office meeting rooms, instituting one-on-one check ins to promote employee well-being, virtual “happy hours” among teams, group trainings to renew a sense of community among colleagues and more.
Moving forward, employers should find the mix of communication channels that work best for them in a virtual work environment. It’s crucial to lean on verbal and non-verbal cues during video calls to make sure employees are heard, understood and feel appreciated. Being in-tune and in-touch with employees is invaluable, and it’s critical to give them the support, the tools and the time to ensure they have what they need to succeed.
Use HR technology to guide business strategy
Throughout the pandemic, when employees needed support, they likely turned to their HR colleagues, and the same went for business owners as they sought support to apply for Paycheck Protection Loans, navigated new paid leave laws, worked to maintain a strong company culture virtually and experienced more emerging challenges. Over the past several years, and increasingly so during the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of the HR professional has transitioned from being the liaison between employee and employer, to being a strategic partner who helps organizations understand their employees better and encourages them to take the necessary steps to retain a talented and engaged workforce.
HR leaders have the ability to help business owners build the bonds and the connections they need to efficiently run and grow their organizations. When implemented correctly, technology solutions can help build and keep that connection between employee and employers, enabling a strong sense of transparency and support in remote-work environments.
Additionally, HR technology solutions can offer data insights that help employers better understand their workforce. For instance, HR platforms can provide hiring and turnover trends that help uncover areas of an organization that are contributing most to turnover and can also benchmark those metrics against businesses of similar sizes. With a goal in mind, business leaders can use this data to identify and solve problems that are impeding employee wellness and, ultimately, business growth.
Related: The Future of HR Tech
The future of remote work
The convergence of HR and technology has proven to be crucial throughout the pandemic; however, it’s clear that the benefits will extend beyond this past year. As remote work becomes normalized, employees will be recruited, onboarded and connected from across the globe. It’s up to business owners to help all employees, whether remote or in-person, be engaged and feel happy and comfortable in their positions. The use of technology can help business owners strengthen the connection of their employees to their work, their colleagues and culture, and position them to be successful now and in the future. In a time when businesses are considered more than just an employer, technology can help employers have a line of sight into a remote employee’s world, check on his or her personal and professional well-being and truly help him or her feel valued as he or she works from home.