• We asked HR leaders at companies including Citi, Etsy, and PwC how the pandemic will transform the world of work.
  • Some executives predicted increased mental-health benefits for employees.
  • Others said HR teams will need to establish regular communication with employees.
  • Click here for more BI Prime content.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, work has changed drastically.

Offices around the world have closed, and employees have been logging in virtually from their living rooms, where they’re often accompanied by kids and pets. No one’s sure when offices will reopen, and how company leaders will ensure that everyone stays safe and healthy once they do. People who have a job are terrified that they’ll lose it, as layoffs sweep nearly every industry.

Amid this uncertainty, Business Insider asked a series of human-resources leaders — at companies including PwC, Citi, Etsy, and Vita Coco — what the future of work will look like. Many of these executives were previously selected for inclusion on our list of the most innovative people in HR, and they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how their organizations can adapt to the crisis.

Read on for their predictions.

Carol Cochran, VP of people and culture at remote-job service site FlexJobs, thinks companies will put structured support systems in place.

“If we’ve learned nothing else, let it be that having a structured remote-work policy is crucial to business continuity during times of crisis. One of the most important benefits companies should be looking at keeping a policy in place that includes contingency plans for supporting employees during times of crisis.”

Jill Felska, director of people and culture at Limelight Health, a cloud-based software company, thinks the pandemic will transform how employers view remote work.

“Companies everywhere were forced to adopt new policies, communication styles, and attitudes about how work gets done — practically overnight. While offices will still very much exist, what has forever changed is the fundamental understanding that working from home can be done, and rather successfully. In fact, many companies are finding that their employees are actually more productive. Moving forward, flexible work arrangements will become the norm and a significant number of companies (like we just saw with Twitter) will cut the cord and stay remote.”

Josh Fialky, senior talent acquisition partner at marketing and communications firm Havas Media, says it’s key for HR teams to help maintain employees’ emotional and professional well-being.

“This means continued check-ins with employees focused on not only work, but also emotional well-being and mental health. Talent management teams will lead the way for us to adapt to our new way of life in the office. They will develop and train managers on how to ensure their people feel safe and heard, as well as how and when to speak up if and when they don’t feel safe. Over the past nine weeks, all company cultures have changed and evolved.” 

Adrian Gajda, people analyst at Vita Coco, sees HR leaders becoming more communicative with employees.

“Throughout this pandemic, successful HR teams have provided a level of comfort to both employees and executives. The key to success stems from communication: from decisions about closing offices, to informing employees about new acts passed by federal and state governments, to providing resources about what employees can do to maintain mental, financial, and physical wellness.

“This communication helps build a level of trust and comfort between employees all across the country.”

Raina Moskowitz, SVP of people, strategy, and services at Etsy, says business leaders are learning to be flexible.

“As we shift our focus to the future [at Etsy], we are giving a lot of thought to how employees can safely reenter our offices, what the workplace will look like, and how we’ll operate globally. Our team is using this remote work time to build new competencies and ways of working, gather emerging recommendations, and engage with government and industry leaders to ensure we adopt best practices.

“We are also listening to our employees to understand how we can best respond to their unique needs both in the short and longer term.”

Amanda Mulay, senior talent manager at early-stage VC fund Lerer Hippeau, hopes the shift to remote work will prompt HR execs to rethink company culture.

“HR teams will be tasked with building a strong and well defined culture as many companies maintain a remote workforce. Remote work will also shift performance management and goal-setting for employees moving forward. HR will need to work closely with everyone in the organization to help employees navigate the new normal and communicate expectations associated with this change at work, while also encouraging and implementing constructive employee feedback.”

Daniel Sprock, director of people and culture at career-advice company Fairygodboss, says the pandemic is a pivotal moment for HR.

“There has never been a moment more vital for HR/People & Culture departments to be promoting morale and well-being. We find ourselves in a time of severe unrest and anxiety, and as such, HR professionals must operate as stewards for their colleagues. Taking time to hold open forums, 1:1s, employee engagement surveys, etc., to help better understand the specific concerns, uncertainties, and fears of your workforce should be our driving force to create new resources in the time of COVID.”

Adam Weber, chief people officer at employee engagement software company Emplify, says the pandemic has catalyzed a shift to decentralized work.

“Office environments won’t disappear overnight, but the purpose of an office will shift. I think the office will be a place of convenience and camaraderie rather than accountability, and work will be more about what you produce as opposed to where you produce it. We were already moving in the direction of decentralized workforces before COVID, but the pandemic has sped up the shift by at least a decade.

“And with this, hiring will no longer be geographically restricted, which in turn will make hiring less about physical location and more about talent.”

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