Building resilience for human resources during COVID-19

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With all of us now stuck at home due to COVID-19, parts of our days have certainly changed. The long periods of isolation, the separation, the losses, financial instability, the daily stress and the emotional distress some of us are experiencing is pushing down what I call our human resources. But organizations can come out of this stronger than before.

For business, the challenge is to ensure it recovers and is better adapted to transformed markets, different demands, and new HR and operational risks. While the future looks very uncertain, given the continuing changes in the world, some key elements are very clear – it is highly unlikely that we will return to a physical workplace that existed pre-COVID-19. A recent MetricStream organizational survey showed as few as a quarter of our employees are willing to resume working in a physical office post-COVID-19. This can lead to complications for business continuity, and it means that organizations will need to provide a remote-first employee experience for the foreseeable and resilient future. One of the most important risks for chief human resource officers to manage this new reality is how to provide a psychologically healthy and effective work environment for human resources. And how one can re-imagine work-life integration by embracing a non-linear workday for remote work.

While there are various ways to make remote work more engaging, fulfilling and productive, I personally believe, the time is ripe for organizations and individuals to break free from traditional routines followed in co-located offices and embrace a “non-linear workday”. While we can foster our imagination with endless possibilities, the idea is to break free from boredom and the conventional definition of an asynchronous workday.

A non-linear workday in a remote-work or co-located environment

A non-linear workday separates time of work and play to embrace an asynchronous workday without opting for PTO (paid time off), or a half day. For example, Hemant starts to work remotely from 6am and works till 9am. Later, he changes his status to inform his colleagues that he will be away through 3pm to help his daughter complete her school’s assignment. After helping his daughter with her school’s assignment, he resumes the work at 3pm. But before he gets his work started, he shares a few clicks of the dad-daughter’s time spent together with his colleagues. Hemant then continues to work till 8pm.

Sounds interesting and weird at the same time, right? You can swap anything in for above-mentioned example and imagine how it could apply to you.

Well, adopting a non-linear workday is possible and encouraged when organizations offer a non-judgmental culture and measures people by the outcomes delivered and not by hours spent. Also, informal communication and sharing creates trust and deeper personal bonds with our colleagues working across different office locations during different time zones.

“The point is that a non-linear workday allows you to construct each day differently. Non-linear thinking is less constrictive as it lets the creative side of you run wild to integrate work and life, which can not only let you boost your creativity, it can also increase possible outcomes both at the workplace and in personal life.”

How organizations can adopt and foster non-linear workdays

  • A handbook by HR with proper policies detailed with guidelines and takeaways for a non-linear workday in a remote-work environment.
  • Communication is key to remote work and implementing a centralized policy management solution can deliver the right information to employees and relevant stakeholders.
  • Technology helps in our day-to-day work to clearly communicate policies and procedures detailing frequent regulatory changes to policies, attestation and easy accessibility from remote locations.
  • The organization must implement asynchronous communication modes and tools in a conscious and thorough manner.
  • Leaders and managers must offer and support a non-judgmental culture, which measures employees on outcomes or results, rather than number of hours. 
  • Understanding that not every single day can be non-linear. Individuals must act responsibly to manage his/her own workday to be able to focus on important tasks and be in control (be accountable), while working remotely. Otherwise, others and work will take over the control, which can be more stressful. 
  • Create a workplace culture where meetings are a last option and ensure that unavoidable meetings can be managed via asynchronous communication. Moreover, one must bear in mind that not every single day will be a meeting-free day.

Benefits of non-linear workdays

Study into remote work has made one thing clear – remote workers can be even more productive than their office-bound counterparts and here are some key benefits:

  • An asynchronous approach to workday and communication offers better productivity, whether the teams are remote or not, by reducing “collaboration overload” which is due to a synchronous way of working through formal meetings, chats via messaging apps and email communication. 
  • Reduced interruptions for high-value, cognitively-demanding activities such as planning, solution-designing, writing, strategizing, and problem-solving that all require long periods and deep focus – offer better and meaningful outcomes.
  • With a non-linear workday, organizations will be able to realize benefits on the mental health front by preventing anxiety, stress and burnout and ensuring the emotional well-being of their staff, especially in a remote-work situation.
  • Individuals gain back time (and sanity) by avoiding rush hour commutes and avoid the distractions of the co-located workplace. They regain a sense of control over workdays and will have more time to dedicate to family, friends and hobbies.

In a nutshell, (in my opinion), it is time for organizations to explore upgrading from conventional co-located workplaces to asynchronous (hybrid-remote) workplaces by adopting different models.

Dipti leads Presales function at MetricStream, with her two decades of experience, leadership and versatile management capabilities that offers our customers with multi-faceted business value.