By Madelein Hendrick – MD, HR Company Solutions
Human Resource professionals are, by and large, driven by their passion for people. When embarking on this profession one knows that having the best for our employees is always at the forefront as we navigate through regulations and company culture.
For many organisations the Human Resource function was a formality to ensure compliance with the regulations put forward by governing bodies and bargaining councils; but since the pandemic I believe there has been a shift in approach and this has given us the opportunity to dig deeper into the health and wellness of the employees of our organisations.
The pressure that HR departments have faced in establishing policies and strategies which affect the real wellbeing of our employees during COVID has been enormous. Creating and implementing these policies – with little to no guidelines of professionals who have done this in the past – was challenging for many businesses but as I continue to recruit HR professionals, I am delighted to see these skills now listed on their resumes as an accomplishment they are proud of.
What I am most fascinated about seeing is how HR professionals have put the wellness of their employees above everything else in the business, including productivity, finance, and other crucial aspects as they simply had to keep the health and wellness of their people as key to business survival.
We have seen organisations adapt to working from home options, to dividing workforces to create social distancing practices and many other out-of-the-box ways to ensure optimal safety for our employees.
I applaud the hard work HR professionals have done when I outline the above but sadly the battle is not won as many employees do not adhere to the policies implemented for their own protection.
The challenges that HR departments are facing as we shift post pandemic:
Mental health and wellbeing
The sudden shift in work culture took a toll on overall employee health and wellbeing, exacerbating stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Many organisations have initiated wellness programmes and provided employees with health benefits, and flexibility to help them overcome their health issues. But the sudden COVID-19 outbreak has brought the employees’ mental problems to the fore.
When you have your workers working in an office work environment, you understand their pulse and sensitivity, which helps you tackle any issues that arise. But with employees going remote, communication routes have been significantly compromised, leaving the managers without the usual indicators.
I believe that this is a major concern for HR professionals right now and equipping your HR departments with the correct training and tools they need to tackle this problem is essential in your business.
Employee Isolation and quarantine
Whilst HR departments are doing their best to ensure the safety of employees, there is a trend amongst some staff towards non-compliance with protocols, thereby putting themselves and others at risk.
This is deeply frustrating for HR departments as employees are finding themselves in isolation and quarantine more frequently than businesses can keep up with.
If you have to go out, think twice. Be wise, sanitise. There are only so many posters and awareness we can create around this pandemic but they are of no real consequence for those who are not taking it seriously.
As companies have had to relook at their finances, with many initiating hiring freezes, many employees have been feeling overworked and drained.
This has impacted the number of grievances to HR departments which is keeping them on their toes.
Communicating the uncertainty.
There are certain types of uncertainty which are energising and there are others that are draining. The daunting feeling of not knowing what the future holds or what measures to take to sustain organisational operations is a huge challenge and speaks to the latter.
HR teams are responsible for ensuring alignment, which in turn should provide some form of clarity, however, to respond to the crisis and develop effective measures and strategies for all is taking its toll on the wellness of even the strongest HR professionals.
Advice for employee wellbeing in times of uncertainty:
Uncertainty around the future of jobs, the company and the economy has seen anxiety levels rise to unhealthy highs. And the cost of not addressing issues such as mental health has been estimated to be in the billions for businesses.
Balance has been a hard thing to come by and as companies now look to once again change the way people work, embracing hybrid work models, increased remote work days and talent pools no longer bound by geography, wellness is going to be a centrepiece in any effort to increase or maintain engagement and productivity.
Organisations realise now more than ever the value of a resilient workforce, and it’s something they’re going to need as future crises are bound to impact the business yet again.
- Create and implement a wellness programme in your organisation.
- Conduct a wellness risk assessment
- Invest in outsourcing wellness functions such as coaching, stress management courses and training programmes.
- Step up the employee engagement within your organisation with improved communication strategies.
- Educate your HR departments on the values of employee wellness.