Post-pandemic workplace: is there a silver lining for business owners?

Amidst the chaos of shutting offices and stores, working from home and the added stress of home schooling there must be an upside to COVID -19… surely?  As restrictions ease around the country Lee-Anne and Tegan from the HR Dept Ringwood, in Victoria, have spoken to their local businesses about the positives that have come out of the pandemic. 

Reduced costs

Yes, we know companies have probably had less revenue during this crisis. But this is a positive article, so let’s talk savings. For those renting offices, the move to working from home has shown some of the business owners we work with that they don’t need as much space. Patricia Vaz from international NFP Community Housing Ltd, for example, who says the change to Zoom and other video conferencing methods could has already seen hugely reduced travel costs in flights, accommodation and the need for fleet vehicles as people become accustomed to doing business online. 

Safety, safety, safety

There is no doubt the pandemic has made us all acutely aware of our own personal responsibility in combating the spread. Yes, employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace, but employees now understand they have an active role to play, rather than expecting employers to provide all the solutions. This approach could be broadened, for example to include all aspects of safety in the workforce. This can only be a good thing for businesses and employees. 

The pendulum swings

Let’s just say this how it is –with unemployment set to hit 10 per cent, it does put employers back in the driver’s seat. Higher unemployment means a bigger pool of candidates to choose from as your business ramps up.

People who were pushing for a promotion or pay rise are now seemingly happy to have a job! One leading small business owner we work with has told us his employees are really grateful to still be working, compared to many of their peers who are surviving on JobKeeper or Centrelink benefits. 

One in, all in

Businesses who have communicated well with their people during this crisis are now enjoying a greater sense of camaraderie in their workforce. The Prime Minister’s “one in; all in” approach has filtered down to many businesses, which have decreased hours or supported working from home as a collective approach.

For most employers, the “line of sight” style of management has been forcibly removed and replaced with the “trust in the outcomes” approach. It’s created a better sense of the business as one. 

The happiness factor

A happier workforce is a more productive one. Enforced working from home has given employees a greater appreciation of being in the office and the social contact that entails. Other employees have enjoyed the opportunity to work from home without distractions (unless you have also been home schooling of course).

The modern world is looking like it will be,. at least for the foreseeable future, a mixture of both.  

Social hours, coffee clubs and Kahoot games have become an important part of our weekly schedules. Employers can therefore continue to focus on ways to boost morale and encourage positivity in the workplace, as a means of increasing productivity. 

If we broaden this beyond just our workforces; could it be true that the average Joe will be happier to be in our stores or restaurants? Could they be more grateful for our employees’ service after months of cooking and cleaning for themselves? Could we see happy customers? The joy! 

Tick tock

We’re not talking about the latest craze, that sees people showing the world their moves (much to the amusement of their children). It’s actually about having time to work on the business during this crisis. For some, the slowing of business activity has given them time to work on business strategy and planning and to develop new partnerships as everyone struggles to pivot their businesses. 

The COVID -19 pandemic has certainly forced employers to think differently, pivot their businesses and make quick decisions on how best to support their employees. 

Post-pandemic workplace

As with every silver lining there will remain some clouds and grey areas where employers, their HR teams and employees will need to work together to incorporate changing employment conditions.

The balance between home life and work life has been blurred. Employers will need to ensure they keep up to date with employment legislation to ensure they are balancing this with the push for and benefits of greater flexibility. 

Health and safety will remain high on the agenda with COVID safe workplaces and continuing OH&S obligations for workers we can’t see. 

In order to get the best out of their employees, employers will need to ensure they and their teams are upskilled to focus on managing by outcomes instead of “who is last in at night”. 

A tightening of the belt could see Australian businesses needing to do more with less. An understanding of business priorities and communicating this to teams will see those who have used the last few months to improve their communications succeed. The others will need to catch up. 

Overall, the COVID -19 pandemic has certainly forced employers to think differently, pivot their businesses and make quick decisions on how best to support their employees.

Perhaps this is the greatest gift from the pandemic – a nation full of employers and business owners who have managed to get through the toughest time in our history, in collaboration with their people.

If we can do this, then surely we can do anything.