As well as the obvious fears and worries directly linked to the pandemic, employers will have to understand some of the wellbeing issues arising from a continued period of home working. The change management process of “going remote” may seem simple, but if not managed properly can result in stress and mental health concerns - not least as this was an enforced situation, which some people may find challenging and which everyone is handling through their own unique lens of personal circumstances.
For many, there could be no separation between work and home life; our offices are our homes, and our homes are our offices. How do we help minimize anxiety and promote well-being for the health and productivity of teams as we ‘settle in for the long-run’?
At EY we have made sure that our people are regularly checking in and have full access to information and online communities to help with a range of possible issues such as homeschooling or balancing work. That help comes via webcasts and virtual interaction from leadership but also through encouraging teams and colleagues to “socialize” where they can – and it’s been great to see people have virtual coffees and quizzes online, and use freed up travel time for well-being.
Another challenge for firms how they performance review peoples’ work and progress under the current situation. Leaders are constantly trying to ensure their review systems take into account a wide variety of personality types and ways of working. Yet with remote working that becomes much trickier. For example, the introvert who only explains their successes in a face-to-face informal chat may not be so forthcoming on a video chat.
As well as mental health challenges, there is also a physical toll from extended remote working. Many people will have quickly improvised workstations at home. We know, for example, many call centre staff have resumed work from home. Yet, there may be health and safety issues without the right guidance and equipment for sustained home working.
FS firms will also have to deal with possible issues when we all return to offices, commuting and “normal life”. Some may be very keen to return but others may find the transition challenging. The FS industry, more than most other parts of the economy, is extremely globally mobile. Will the embrace of virtual enablement impact cross-border travel for meetings? And for those working in FS, we could see a reluctance to be mobile, as they may wish to stay near family as the world recovers in the next few years.
A nimble approach to talent management
The speed of the pandemic also raises a few questions on the right tools for people management. The somewhat disjointed structure where different functions such as HR, talent and recruitment look after different aspects of people has been common in many big corporates. When an emergency hits, not having a single point with oversight of all people can be a real weakness. Dealing with the global lockdown will have been an eye-opener for many firms over the lack of central co-ordination and control and the need to have a much more integrated approach to global workforce planning.
However, our experience during the last couple of weeks has made us feel more optimistic overall, as we have seen:
- the value of remote and flexible work options, which also has an added talent attraction benefit
- how important it is to build trust with a remote workforce
- how separating work and home needs to be carefully planned and carried through
- how it’s even more important for teams to communicate effectively
- the importance of leaders to cultivate a positive culture
Reflections for the future
It is of course difficult right now to predict the medical and macroeconomic outcomes of the current crisis, but we are already witnessing a profound impact on global and multinational companies. One that impacts their people, ways of working and society.
There will be critical learnings we can take away from the crisis, not just for the FS industry but for the way we live and work together on a more sustainable level. To go back to where we started - that this crisis has impacted everyone, everywhere - we see the momentum that will drive us towards a new working world.
Values have emerged that will drive not only how we steer our people through this crisis but how we bring them out; values that will help us protect culture and loyalty, as well as giving us the engagement opportunities to come out with a more resilient workforce and a better working world.