How HR is Navigating Covid-19 Six Months On

by Andrew Murphy, Director at Coopman

In April of this year, we approached 25 businesses across various sectors to understand how their HR departments were navigating Covid-19. Now, six months on, as companies have adapted their operations to remote settings and employees are more comfortable working from home, HR departments are focusing on navigating Covid-19 in a new light, taking into consideration the long-term impact of the pandemic. From conversations with a range of individuals in the financial services market, we share the current responsibilities of HR professionals.

Current HR responsibilities

HR professionals are making the necessary preparations and plans for when the time comes to move employees back to the office. While this is dependent on a number of factors including company location, size and industry, it is vital that companies have a thorough and well-thought out plan in place. While companies are considering rotating office spaces, hub and spoke models, and flexible offices, a hybrid working model will be utilised by many with employees spending time both in the office and at home during their working week. HR departments will provide guidance on how this impacts employees and their personal circumstances.

Evident for many is that remote working brings with it both benefits and challenges. While removing the need to commute and facilitating spending more time with family are great perks, employees have reported reduced productivity, engagement and motivation, along with working longer hours. The removal of a consistent routine, a change in scenery and in-person interactions with colleagues is taking its toll on employees, with potential serious consequences in the form of stress and burnout. HR departments are combating this by providing improved health and wellbeing programmes for employees along with other supportive programmes.

While the volume of jobs available will remain low for the remainder of this year, many companies have opened their recruitment processes in some shape or form. Hiring and onboarding is, in the most part, conducted remotely with clear processes in place. To ensure the best experience for an individual, HR professionals have focused heavily on how such processes are conducted and presented in a digital setting. In particular, when a new starter joins a company, HR is ensuring a well-planned corporate induction that can include regular interactions with colleagues through virtual meetings, off-the-cuff virtual coffee breaks and even virtual mentor-mentee systems.

Approaches to remote working have evolved greatly, with many companies showing more empathy towards their employees and allowing increased flexibility in their daily routines to support their personal circumstances. HR departments have implemented clear ‘Working From Home’ policies that coincide with IT and security policies, to guide managers and their teams in best practice. Additional training resources have also been made available for staff by many companies to support the change in working circumstances over the past six months, focusing on developing the necessary soft skills to work and manage remotely.

HR departments in collaboration with Learning and Development and other departments, are continuing to drive engagement with employees through virtual channels. Activities range from virtual quizzes and running clubs, to events, competitions and even engagement surveys. There is still a large focus on open and transparent communication through digital channels and ensuring management teams are facilitating regular team discussions and brainstorms as well as cross collaboration with other departments.

In April 2020, the approach for HR professionals and their companies focused on adapting their processes to a remote environment and supporting employees in this transition. Now, six months on, as we learn to live alongside Covid-19, HR departments are planning for the foreseeable future and the impact it may have on the workforce, while continuing to drive employee engagement.