Looking for unexpected opportunities during times of crisis

We scribe on all things HR to add value to your organisation

by | Nov 2, 2020

Australia’s lockdown and reaction to the pandemic has been more prolonged and harsh than any business leader could have imagined. With whole workforces mobilised, individual family situations so diverse and the future uncertain, organisations have been exploring how to stay connected to staff in the most meaningful way.

As increasing numbers of employees commenced working from home, a whole new set of challenges emerged not just for the Human Resources, but across technology infrastructure departments and for leaders themselves, to connect with their teams. With employees physically distanced from the office and their colleagues, organisations have had to innovate to thrive in such a rapidly changing market. With 4.3 million Australians, which is nearly one-third of Australian workers, now working from home, many also homeschooling, the usual workplace practices and rules have needed to adapt to allow businesses to still maintain momentum and pace, despite the pandemic. It’s been touted as one of the largest work from home experiments ever, and whilst many employees are silently cheering (No more commute! No more forced water cooler chats!) it’s presented a unique conundrum for leadership teams.

In a traditional office environment, leaders can walk around, chat to their teams, call face to face meetings and physically see what everyone is working on and how they’re progressing. With such vast numbers of employees now working remotely, it’s become far more challenging to stay connected on a personal and commercial level with teams. At Red Wagon Workplace Solutions, we’ve explored many a discussion with leadership teams on how they could and should stay connected to their teams in a meaningful way. Great leaders are unquestionably concerned about not just protecting the mental health of their team members but on how they can help employees stay engaged, motivated and productive.

Opportunities to stay connected 

Our clients have spoken with Red Wagon Workplace solutions about a number of different ideas to stay connected and communicate with a more remote workforce. Some have used Zoom as their key method of connection – regular meetings and in some organisations, leaving Zoom on to chat as employees go about their daily activities. Others have set up virtual lunches or virtual Friday afternoon drinks as a method of bringing the team together in a relaxed setting. Some leaders have found that regular phone communication has been enough to share updates and collaborate, others have initiated regular fireside ‘chats’. However each individual organisation has decided to stay connected, one element has become clear through trial and error – the quality of authentic communication has become the most important element, far exceeding the need for quantity. Of course, the right way of uniting leadership teams with employees and employees with colleagues will differ across organisations – the key is to ensure strategies are put into place to stimulate the collaboration of a regular office environment. It’s not just important from a productivity perspective, but also when safeguarding the mental health of employees some of whom may be struggling with change, isolation or feeling disconnected from their work.

As great believers in viewing life through a positive lens, the opportunities this pandemic has brought to us are immense. We’ve learnt to slow down a little, to connect human to human. We’ve learnt we can be agile and change at pace. We’ve become more resilient and best of all, we’ve set the modern workplace up for long-overdue changes to workplace flexibility and remote working. On a mass scale, we’ve proved to Australia we can make it work and that it’s a practice which should positively shape HR policies in every organisation, for years to come.

About the author

As President and South Australian State Councillor of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI), Susan is a valued advisor and thought leader to her clients and the HR community. Maintaining an extensive understanding of employment law and business acumen through her work and connectivity to the AHRI and the business community, Susan is a master at finding innovative people orientated solutions, carefully balanced with the commercial reality.


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