Operation Bounce Back

During the pandemic, HR specialists rose to the challenge of a lifetime. However, they now face a whole set of new questions – as organisations start planning for a life out of lockdown, what do their employees need to thrive? And which of the measures that were put in place over the last year have worked most effectively? To help you with your planning for the year ahead, we asked over 100 HR professionals these questions in an in-depth study. Here’s what they said about the lessons learnt and their priorities for the year ahead. 

1. THE PANDEMIC IS HAVING A BIGGER IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH THAN PRODUCTIVITY 

65% saw the greatest, negative impact of the pandemic on employee mental health

In spite of this, the work is getting done. Employee engagement remains high, improving in 41% of organisations or holding steady in another 39%. Remarkably, given the challenges employees faced, just over a third of employers (35%) said productivity had improved compared with pre-pandemic levels, with 45% saying it remained the same. Similarly, performance improved for a third (31%) and remained the same at 60%. Motivation remained the same for 58% of employers.

Looking ahead – Mental wellbeing took a big hit with around two thirds of organisations saying it was the biggest issue arising from the pandemic. Falls in pre-pandemic levels of physical wellbeing (34%) and happiness at work (33%) suggest employers need to be aware that the resilience that has carried organisations through the last 12 months may be waning. Support in this area will be critical to performance in 2021. 

2. EMPLOYERS NEED TO FOCUS ON EMPLOYEE WELLBEING IN THE WIDEST SENSE 

51% of employers aren’t measuring financial wellbeing

Employers have shown a real commitment to understanding the impact of the pandemic on the whole person and not simply performance or profit, taking a nuanced approach to measurement. Instead of relying on formal measures such as staff surveys to monitor productivity, performance and engagement, many organisations are building a picture of employee wellbeing by asking for managers to check in on employee mental health (62%), happiness (56%) and physical wellbeing (51%). Just over half of employers see a decrease in wellbeing as the biggest threat to people performance in the year ahead (57%). 

Looking ahead – The number of employees that need help with the financial impact of Covid is likely to be higher than most employers realise. Over half (51%) said this was an area they were least likely to measure. Covid will have a long sting in its tail for many employee’s finances. More will experience a drop in household income due to redundancy or furlough. There is a strong correlation between financial and mental wellbeing and employers will not be able to effectively support staff mental health unless they address financial wellbeing and build confidence to understand and manage finances as well as debt.

3. AFTER NAILING THEIR INITIAL RESPONSE, FUTURE PLANNING IS THE PRIORITY

89% of employers feel proud of the way their organisation supported its people through the pandemic

The vast majority of employers feel their staff have been well supported with four-fifths (81%) saying they have done everything they can to support employees. Doing this in the face of the constantly changing environment has been the biggest challenge according to 70% of those we spoke to. The biggest obstacles for HR have been the logistical and technical challenges of putting support in place (34%) and doing it at the speed required (25%). Only a small number of organisations have struggled with unrealistic expectations of employees (12%).

Looking ahead – With an exit from lockdown on the horizon, now is the critical time to look at how hybrid working can work most effectively for employees and employers on an ongoing basis. The good news is many HR professionals can expect to count on leadership teams who have been supportive of their work in all but a tiny minority of organisations.

4. NEW POLICIES ARE NEEDED TO SUPPORT NEW DEMANDS ON EMPLOYEES

51% didn’t implement a policy to protect personal time outside working hours

Overall in the last year, HR teams did a great job of making working environments Covid-compliant. Organisations were most effective at helping employees adapt to working from home (92%), allowing employees to attend to personal issues during the working day (81%), recognising the contribution that individuals make to the business (80%), giving employees new tools to collaborate more effectively (79%) and introducing flexible working hours (77%). 

Looking ahead – To manage the impact of the pandemic on employees and support hybrid working, the top priority for employers is to address HR policies and benefits propositions which are out of step with employees’ needs in over half of organisations (56% and 58% respectively). Alongside practical support for wellbeing, additional reward for outstanding contribution or dedication to the job (60%) and protection of time outside of working hours (52%) lead the areas where employees want help.

5. LIVING WITH UNCERTAINTY WILL BE THE NEW NORMAL

69% are unsure how long remote / hybrid working arrangements will last

There may be light at the end of the tunnel in the form of mass vaccination, but employers are coming to terms with the idea that uncertainty will be a feature of the working environment for the foreseeable future: over two thirds (69%) say they don’t know when their organisation will move out of the current pattern of enforced remote and hybrid working. Many employers anticipate challenges in adapting to new working arrangements post-pandemic (40%) and managing work-life balance (37%) as a barrier to performance.

Looking ahead – The coming weeks are a critical period for employers who want to ensure their people and their organisations are in the best place to thrive as we emerge from lockdown. With our research finding that 29% of employees feel more positive about their organisation as a result of actions they took in the past year and 24% saying they were more likely to go the extra mile, it is clear that employers who invest in supporting their people will be rewarded by engaged and motivated teams in the year ahead.

During the pandemic, HR specialists rose to the challenge of a lifetime. However, they now face a whole set of new questions – as organisations start planning for a life out of lockdown, what do their employees need to thrive? And which of the measures that were put in place over the last year have worked most effectively? To help you with your planning for the year ahead, we asked over 100 HR professionals these questions in an in-depth study. Here’s what they said about the lessons learnt and their priorities for the year ahead.

Author: Andy Philpott | Category: Blog | 06/04/2021 | 0

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