Taking care of staff in a post-lockdown world

With corporate attention turning to resuming operations in a new normal following the easing of lockdown restrictions, it is important not to neglect employees’ well-being. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies, believes this transition is a critical time to reinforce the company’s commitment to addressing the physical, psychological, and financial concerns of staff.

“People are social by nature and want to interact with their colleagues. Given how remote working has become part of normal operating procedure, there is a real risk of this aspect of work being lost. If many employees are no longer required to be in a physical office, management must work with HR to implement a different approach, for example regular video calls with remote workers to find out how they are doing on a personal level,” he says.

Counting the cost

Of course, the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant. The introduction of the Temporary Employer and Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), designed to provide financial assistance to employees through Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payments, has proven to be woefully inadequate. Pay-outs (when received) only cover a small portion of income, resulting in employees needing to fix a significant financial gap in their lives.

“Companies must be transparent throughout this period and clearly communicate with employees on the financial realities in which the organisation finds itself. Not many, if any, businesses will be able to afford bonuses or salary increases for the foreseeable future. HR departments need to effectively bring this message across and be the link between management and individuals on expectations for the future,” says Myburgh.

New possibilities

On the positive side, the lockdown has proven to employers that remote work is not only possible, but also eliminates the traditional geographic limitations associated with finding new staff.

“It is now possible to employ full-time staff who might not even live in the same province or country where the company is based. By doing so, the business can develop a regional and even global skills base it might not have even considered as practical prior to the lockdown. However, if an ‘international’ employee is appointed, consideration must be given to the local labour laws and whether the organisation complies with them.”

Irrespective of whether an employer works with local or international staff, a remote working environment does make it difficult to foster a sense of community among employees.

“This is where weekly social discussions become an important tool. Even if this is done virtually, it is good for the organisation to engage with employees on a social level. Beyond that, the company can send care packages to employees at home that can include everything from masks and sanitisers to chocolate and other feel-good items.

It is important to remain cognisant on the support the business provides its employees during these (and other difficult) times. These are matters which help the business become even more competitive in the future,” concludes Myburgh.

For more information, go to www.crs.co.za