What are people expecting post-pandemic? An optimistic take.

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If I were forced to say it, I would say that I’m probably an optimist. If I think about my hopes for the future, I see Star Trek: The Next Generation (minus The Borg) rather than Bladerunner (I promise this will be my only nerd reference). /nerd

I’ve spent some time reading different views on what people are expecting post-pandemic. There seem to be three camps.

  1. Nothing will change. We’re creatures of habit who don’t want to change for better or worse. We like what we like.
  2. The response to the virus will lead us to a broad-reaching surveillance state where the least sniffle will get you sprayed with disinfectant.
  3. This is the next stage of human evolution and an opportunity to fix the problems we’ve uncovered over the course of the pandemic.

As you’ve guessed, I tend to side with the optimistic futurists who claim that the new normal opens a world of positive opportunities. We can use this “great reset” to reclaim what it means to work, to spend time with family, to use our time and space in the best possible ways. It will just be a matter of degree.

All of this is very lofty, and the loftiest of goals must start somewhere. So, let’s start with HR.

In McLean & Company’s recent COVID Research Survey, we asked 190 HR professionals to rate how their organizations responded to the pandemic, to identify their biggest challenges, and to share what they think work will eventually look like for them. The responses were heartwarmingly pro-employee.

In all of the most important ways, HR showed up. Across the board, respondents reported increased communication, support for remote work, and flex accommodations for caregivers. All that hard work and care added up to increased employee engagement (as well as increased stress on HR professionals – but more on that in another article).

The full report includes so many valuable resources, that I’m just going to point you right at it: Pandemic Survey Report.

As far as the future of work goes, looking at the survey results, speaking with members, and chatting with my peers, I see a number of small and big things that could serve as levers HR can pull.

  • Flexible work. This one is obvious. Flex work could include different hours, shifted schedules, introducing a four-day work week. Many organizations who never considered this before are now looking at all of these as possibilities.
  • Recruiters can promote the company based on its COVID response. In-demand talent will ask how you responded. This will be a big attractor in the very near future. If an organization had a poor response, they MUST start thinking about how they’ll respond and make things better.
  • More niche HR policies go mainstream to reflect WFH reality. Cyberbullying should be included in all anti-violence policies, hygiene standards may have a minimum threshold in the office, improving the process for terminations over video conference, and recouping company property being held at employee homes.
  • New job titles. Chief of Remote Staff, Director of Remote Engagement. We see new roles pop up all the time, usually in IT. Here is HR’s time to shine. Carve out new and meaningful directions for HR to forge.
  • New ways to engage employees. Lunch meeting? Lunch is delivered to your door! Don’t like egg salad sandwiches? Here’s a bean burrito!
  • Assigned budgets for office supplies. I can’t get sticky notes or replace my many lost pens by walking to the supply cupboard anymore. Eventually, I’ll stop finding pens in random kitchen drawers and under the couch. I think.

Okay, so the last two were really for me. They’re still valid.

There really are many ways things could go over the next little while, and I believe HR is going to lead the way. We’ve already shown what we can do during the worst of times, and I hope we uncover, see, and embrace the positive opportunities that can and will emerge from this wild time.

What unique and forward-thinking things are you trying at your organization? I would love to hear about it.

By Laura Hansen-Kohls

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