Covid-19 pandemic: what is the impact on management methods?
Working from home has not been a common practice in companies. Up to now, most of the employees concerned were mainly managers, essentially in the IT and telecommunications sectors. We can see that the pandemic has suddenly and drastically changed the way we work. Confined to their homes, the employees have had to continue their activities from home and the HR departments had to provide them with the digital tools required to ensure continuity of the business plan.
Managers were suddenly forced to remotely monitor teams not used to using collaborative and information sharing tools. Work methods had to be reorganized and a framework had to be set up for working from home, with new rules for connecting to the network, working hours, taking breaks, and maintaining a life/work balance. According to HR professionals, some managers were able to rapidly set up collaborative methods and tools.
However, some lesser-equipped companies have resorted to ‘DIY’ methods and have been using collaborative platforms available on the Web.
Some managers have had difficulty handling the increased autonomy and responsibility of their teams and feel they are losing control. The pandemic has, however, overcome any resistance managers may have had to working from home.
How will working from home change after confinement?
Many HR departments hope to take advantage of the new methods and habits to accelerate their digital transformation and work towards a ‘managerial transformation’ – which has been in the works for several years – in order to promote initiative, autonomy and creativity.
Developing managers’ soft skills
The health crisis has also put the focus on interactions between people, and managers have had to develop their soft skills. Several HR departments have set up remote training courses for managers so they can develop their listening skills and allowing them to provide psychological assistance to their employees. During these difficult times, employees may feel anxiety and have to deal with sickness and even death. Despite crisis cells being set up and special centers that people can call, the managers are still the employees’ first point contact.
Increased communication to reassure
A company’s role during a crisis is to reassure employees and stay in contact with them and ask them how they are doing. Managers need to be able to send clear and reassuring messages and remain in contact through video conferencing. During this crisis, managers need to make special efforts to set up close communication. Employees are not only afraid of the coronavirus, but they also need to be reassured about the future of their jobs. What plans will be implemented? What will the post-crisis strategy be? What will happen to their jobs? They have to reassure and be informative, because there is a lot of ‘fake news’ on Covid-19. Managers are the key component of the communication system.
What happens after confinement is over?
Managers will also be on the forecront when things get back to normal. Many employees fear that reduced work hours will lead to termination. Companies will be greatly affected by the crisis and some will go bankrupt. How do we continue to reassure and motivate employees so that they go back to work with a positive outlook and planning for a better future? Evasive answers or ‘corporate’ speak’ will have little effect at a time when most people get their information from social media.
Employees have a lot of questions and require clear and concise answers and allowing them to express their concerns on special platforms would be useful. Managers should be dynamic when dealing with their teams. To prepare for a gradual return to work, some managers have been organizing activities on line (afterwork, games, etc), while others are providing coaching and even lessons in relaxation therapy. HR needs to start helping them.