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What will the New Normal look like?
By Aldrin Links, HR Director
It has been nearly two years since Covid-19 rocked the world to its core, significantly impacting people’s lives and livelihoods. In particular, the world of work we were accustomed to, has seen some significant challenges. Consequently, many organisations had to adapt in order to survive the turbulence of very uncertain times. Given the outlook of Covid being part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and considering that in South Africa we can now operate with minimal restrictions, the time has come for organisations to transition into more consistent and predictable work patterns, therefore settling into what would constitute their “New Normal”.
The journey to “normality “, shifting from surviving to thriving, will certainly be an interesting one. Navigating between how organisations operated pre-Covid, lessons learned during the pandemic, and figuring out what best practices will work post-pandemic, will certainly impact the way organisations operate and define their new normal.
Here are some points and issues that would need to be considered / addressed:
Any decisions on work practices should be carefully considered and based on a collaborative consultation and input from all relevant stakeholders. Factors that need to be taken into account are operational and client needs.
How do you balance the requirements for workplace presence with the freedom of remote work (WFH)? Should all people return to work? Should only some, with others working ‘hybrid’ and others continuing to WFH? If some people are allowed to continue to WFH, how would HR handle possible resentment from those employees who need to be in the office in person (again driven by operational or client needs)? The decisions companies make in this regard will also have potential impact on office space requirements and workplace design.
How does one best maintain and promote occupational health and safety? Of course there are the usual practices of masks, social distancing and frequent sanitisation/washing of hands. How will the company handle the very sensitive matter of mandatory versus voluntary vaccination requirements and how will this impact on corporate culture and staff morale? What is important is that if a company adopts a flexible strategy around vaccination, this needs to be one that will sustain the dignity of all their employees.
The importance of “social capital” is gaining traction in the workplace. In essence this refers to the levels of goodwill, collective commitment, positive feelings, warmth, appreciation, optimism, etc, which are derived from social interactions and relationships.
Companies will definitely seek to maximise their social capital by putting the proper measures in place.
Quite a few companies have already defined their “New Normal” and developed workplace policies, such as requiring employees to be three days a week in the office and to be vaccinated.
What is clear is that the coming few months will be a time of careful discerning, collaboration and finding our feet, with each company having a unique set of requirements that will help determine what their “New Normal” will look like.