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How the Better Normal Might Change the Way We Do HR

This is an article “How the Better Normal Might Change the Way We Do HR” by Marc Primo Warren


Let’s give credit to all the folks in our company’s Human Resources (HR) department. If not for these hardworking people persons, no company would ever succeed in any business. With how things quickly change in a team’s personnel lineup, the need to fill up functional positions immediately--or most especially--how performance appraisals work during quarters two and four, we owe to our HR teams to be the authority that stands for our rights as hardworking members of the company. But do all these remain the same given that most of us have been working remotely the past year due to the COVID-19 health crisis?



Every HR employee is trained to handle stressful situations under pressure. When someone needs an emergency bereavement leave, the team quickly processes not only the necessary filing and paperwork, but also addresses what the affected employee might need. They also deal with breaches in confidentiality and employee violations on strict time constraints. And let’s not get started on dealing with every employee’s compensation and benefits. Of course, these and all other similar HR functions become twice as difficult out of the office given that most processes usually require black and white documents and physical signatures from the bosses.


A disruption of great proportions


When the pandemic struck, an estimated 56% of American employees were forced to adapt to a ‘work-from-home’ situation which posed quite a few challenges in work time monitoring, rising turnover rates, adjusted labor laws, and employee well-being among others.


Add to this the rather vague discussions on how the better normal will eventually affect human resource management: will telecommuting be a norm? Will employers give their employees more flexibility in terms of dealing with work? Needless to say, COVID-19 disrupted our work practices in a way that none of us really know what to expect when we eventually venture back into our office cubicles.


The first thing to consider for HR professionals is the fact that there is no uniform way to address the current changes in work practices. There will always be both institutional differences and local nuances to deal with.


With this, it’s important to note how some sectors have somehow experienced positive outcomes from remote working including healthcare, government, finance, and insurance. However, the majority hasn’t easily adapted to the work-from-home setting and, even worse, some employees had to be furloughed or laid off due to budget cuts.


Aside from this, while working remotely seems to be promising for advanced economies during the better normal, HR experts have not stated any concrete evidence that this would work on a full-commitment scale. A McKinsey study stated that 20 to 25 % of companies will not suffer a loss in productivity on a two to three day remote work week, but more research on this forecast and on performance should be undertaken, as well as considerations on the establishment of new systems, policies, and procedures to make each process fluid.


What HR managers ought to do


Coming up with a good reopening plan requires every HR manager’s full attention. Monitoring a company’s headcount and looking out for government updates on return to work implementations will make it easier to adjust everything from the company budget to operational functions vis-a-vis work positions.


To make the reopening a success, HR practitioners should always go back to the company Vision-Mission-Values (VMV) rule book and align every succeeding step to the business’s goals. Knowing your leverage in terms of how many new heads you can recruit as opposed to the number of redundant positions you should take out of the equation will help you determine how to portion payroll budgets, achieve improved overall productivity, and effect cohesion more effectively.


The easiest way to look at things right now in terms of studying your manpower alternatives is to plan for recruitment if the business continues to thrive, or focus on handling layoffs if it suffered big losses during the pandemic. Identifying which aspects of the business need to pivot and discussing these with upper management eases adjustments for your reopening.


Start reviewing your present employees and their skill levels and apply some chess moves, if you will, as you fill up necessary positions more efficiently. Keep in mind that as a people expert, you are responsible for the right amount of personnel that can run the business smoothly. Anything more or less can create cost impacts and inefficiencies in the company.


Hear the employees out


Vox populi or ‘the opinion of the majority’ is usually included in every HR practitioner’s tenet to determine which strategies work or otherwise. With your company’s reopening at hand, it’s smart to take a survey on what they might expect when they return to their offices or if they are comfortable with sustaining a remote work basis. Ask them what overwhelms them at the moment and what the company can do to ease their fears and anxieties because after all, it really hasn’t been a fantastic year for anyone.


It will take more than just numbers and new policies to feel the pulse of the workforce. Try to pinpoint where each employee is mentally so you can put proper solutions in place when another shift occurs because we may never go back to our old work practices after this pandemic.


Genuinely listen to their concerns about adapting to new things and methods, such as working with masks on if the management makes it a policy to do so, adjusted work arrangements, or when social distancing should still be observed during meetings. Once they know you are actually listening, the more they’ll trust you and know that you care for their well-being.


After you have done your survey, follow up with them and see if there are any other tweaks you forgot to address then update them on the developments.


Nothing beats preparation


No one in the HR department can deny how overwhelming the pandemic affected every workplace. The good thing is that the crashing waves of 2020 are slowly receding and we are now better-equipped to face the challenges of a new normal.


For what it’s worth, take things as you would on any Monday at the office then move forward throughout the rest of the week without being complacent towards possible changes. Good planning trumps any unforeseeable event and, as mentioned earlier, HR professionals are efficient in dealing with any type of emergency--all the time.