The leadership team of the business met on a video call, to discuss business continuity, given the current situation. One person sneezed. The topic changed to health and hygiene. Employee health and Business continuity are two sides of the same coin. The COVID-19 pandemic has just emphasized it beyond explanation.
A. COVID-19 Factors
COVID-19 factors have become an integral part of workplace wellness. These factors became important because of the general unavailability of people for work. People are unavailable because of government regulations and fear. Even when people will become available, companies will not be able to continue business as they did before. A new set of workplace policies will be required to continue work. The factors that will affect policies are:
- Cleanliness (Sanitization)
- Old Age
- Veils (Protective Equipment)
- Illness (Pre-medical conditions)
- Distancing (Social)
B. 5D Impact of COVID-19 Factors
COVID-19 factors have had a 5D impact cost of doing business.
1. Demand – Customer Confidence
Demand has dropped and the signs of recession are hard to ignore. This has happened because of a drop in customer confidence. Gaining customer confidence will take time and proactive measures going forward. Customers will expect regular medical screening of employees interacting with them. Customers would demand medical certificates before availing any people-centric services (especially in service sectors).
2. Density – More Space
Social distancing asks for thrice the usual real estate to get the same work done. The need for better ventilation further adds to the requirement.
3. Duration – More Time
Queuing now takes five times longer than it did before. Waiting time makes processes inefficient. Even the most basic services like entry, exit, billing, etc. are getting impacted.
4. Distance – Travel
Commuting to the workplace is likely to become more difficult than it was before. Limitations of public transport will lead to tardiness, absenteeism, and the spike in employee stress levels.
5. Dime – Money
Regular medical examinations, real estate, process waiting times, travel costs, protective gear (masks/gloves), sanitizers bloat the bottom line. People with pre-medical conditions will need further care.
Research published by ClassPass claims that 75% of professionals surveyed believe that it is the responsibility of their employer to contribute to their health and wellbeing.
C. The New ‘Normal’
Certain essential services industries might not feel the heat of the situation and might possibly experience high growth post-pandemic. However, many businesses will have to reconsider their demands, existing cost structure, and additional 5D impact. This may lead to some turmoil in the talent market for the short term.
Some organizations are already acting smartly and have found creative ways to bring the demand back on track. Some have also figured out the methods to optimize cost structure by leveraging technology and redesigning jobs.
Such market leaders will pave the path and rest are likely to follow them. The IT industry is already working in this mode to some extent, but other industries will also induct themselves with this new COVID way of working.
1. Cloud organization
Microsoft reports a 775% spike in cloud services demand ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more organizations are likely to shift to cloud-based services. Wi-Fiallowance and bring-your-own-device policy are the trends to be witnessed across industries.
2. Overseeing norms
Uber drives engagement by introducing incentive plans. Performance is monitored on a platform. The managerial span of control has essentially no meaning for them. The same model will be adopted by other industries. Managerial jobs will inherently reduce. Work will be more structured. Incentive programs will engage employees to deliver on pre-defined parameters.
3. Virtual workplace
A few companies in the contact centre industry have already shapeshifted. The contact centre agents are no longer coming to work, instead of working from home using their mobile phones. This changes the cost structure for these companies significantly. They enjoy higher margins than before. After some time, they can disrupt the industry by lowering prices and scale quickly.
4. In-office / In-store workforce
McKinsey says that there was a 39% jump in sales from grocery stores during the pandemic. People are not going to a store, they are ordering online, paying through apps, and picking up packed delivery. In-office / in-store workforce is likely to experience a drastic shift in the nature of work due to digital interventions.
5. Dual Employment
Dual employment will become a reality which may lead to sharing of the healthcare cost or it will go the gig way, without coverage.
D. Wellness trends in the post-COVID workplace
In the context of the new normal, wellness trends post COVID-19 will be
COVID-19 Checks and Certification
Companies will mandate screening (temperature check), face masks, COVID-19 testing, and emergency support. Insurance policies will be reviewed to see whether a pandemic is included in the coverage. Regular medical certification of employees, customer-facing employees will become a norm.
Employee Participation in Physical Health
As per ICICI Lombard’s research, nearly 60% of all deaths in India are due to cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and tumors. COVID-19 is hard on people having these conditions. People with these conditions will not be the first choice of most employers.
Employers will get better support from employees in implementing health programs to bring lifestyle changes to prevent these conditions. The Industry overall will see a surge in the usage of monitoring devices and health gamification.
Mental Health – Right to Disconnect
The PwC Health Research Institute found that while 75% of employers offer mental health programs, 81% of employees have not sought treatment for mental health issues in the last five years. The same trend is likely to continue.
It is perceived that work from home translates to a work-life balance, but it is, in fact, the opposite. The day never ends in a work from home setting. Burnouts will trigger debates and surge of policies around this aspect of mental health – Right to disconnect.
Education and Ergonomics
As a large population starts working from home, there will be a requirement to educate people to stay fit while they do so. The education will include exercise, food habits, sitting posture to avoid back pains, right illumination, earphone decibel levels, etc.
Belief in Health
Regardless of a company’s ability to track ROI (Return on investment), 72% of companies think that their wellness initiatives are effective in reducing health care costs and 78% think they improve the physical health of employees. This belief is also likely to continue.
Note- Article was published in SightsIn Plus, HR Magazine, May 2020.