Virtual RoundTable “Imagining the New Normal – Work Life after COVID-19”

August 30, 2020

“Imagining the New Normal – Work Life after COVID-19”

One step forward, two steps back: the COVID-19 pandemic is giving new depth of meaning to this well-worn expression. It’s becoming very clear, in just about every country and in every industry sector around the globe, that we are going to have to get used to waves of disruption and, as a result, a constant battle with the ever-changing “new normal”. With government regulations constantly in change to cope with outbreaks, how can countries and companies transition toward the next normal?

Reimagining the workforce is a vital but challenging task. Executives everywhere are assessing how to bring people back to the workplace and how they will do their jobs. The pandemic has forced the adoption of many new ways of working, and organisations must now reimagine their work and the role of offices in creating safe, productive, and enjoyable jobs and lives for employees.

Some companies are planning a new combination of remote and on-site working, a hybrid workforce model in which some employees are on premises, while others work from home. However, it is essential that companies ensure that a common culture is shared between both in-person workers and remote workers and that there continues to be cohesion and collaboration between all employees regardless of working location.

Speaking to many of our clients over the past 12 weeks, we noticed a commonality in pressure points and issues that had arisen due to the pandemic and the role that HR and HSE professionals were required to take in order to establish BAU for their businesses and their workforces.

Continuing our series of virtual roundtables, Michele Beale, Director Head of Safety and Charlotte Perkins, Manager Contract & Interim Melbourne, were delighted to host a group of Senior HR professionals from a broad range of industry sectors. The topic for the virtual roundtable was “Imagining the New Normal – Work Life after COVID-19”

From the conversation we compiled the following key takeaways:-

What does the future office look like and why?  What do we give up and what can we gain?

The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. Business leaders are beginning to use the lessons from this large-scale work-from-home experiment to reimagine how work is done—and what role offices should play, in both creative and bold ways. However even with the vast amount of benefits to remote working, history shows that mixing virtual and on-site working might be a lot harder than it looks—despite its success during the pandemic.

Has COVID-19 changed the expectations that we have of over leaders?

COVID-19 has been an epic test of character and determination for millions of people around the world, and for CEOs and business leaders it has been the ultimate leadership test. When the pandemic shut down the global economy, business leaders were expected to show purposeful calm and bounded optimism. Everyone wants a leader to demonstrate empathy—and, at the same time, be highly engaged and fact based in their actions. And whilst teams look to them for direction, many are grappling with the boundless questions for which they don’t have answers. Simply put, the COVID-19 crisis is a once-in-a-century event, and no training or experience from any previous downturn has prepared CEOs and business leaders for it.

Flexible work approaches – enablers and blockers

With flexibility now proven to work, what is the balance for companies with allowing employees to continue working from home permanently or asking them to return to the office? Is it unrealistic to allow employees to work from home 5 days a week? What effects these decisions.

Mental Health & Wellbeing support during and after a crisis.

The pandemic will affect the mental health and wellbeing of employees well beyond the immediacy of the initial crisis.

General Health and Safety – at the physical office and at the home office

In Australia, the model WHSE laws still apply if workers are required to work somewhere other than their usual workplace, for example, from home. However, what an employer can do to minimise risks at a worker’s home will be different from what they can do at the usual workplace.

If you are interested in being part of our conversation and/or would like to join one of our Virtual Round Tables, please get in touch with one of the Frazer Jones team here.