If one were to point out the single most important element that has changed the workplace environment of many organizations, it must be the Internet and a slew of Information technology aids that have altered workplace structures, impacted organization culture, and changed how operations are carried out in the modern world. With people increasingly relying on their personal computers, communicating via email, and collaborating with colleagues throughout the world using custom messaging apps; workplaces are increasingly being viewed as a system of humans connected through the Internet with the potential to unlock new efficiencies.
Understanding employee needs and providing for better internet access for all
The Internet has made information flow at the workplace faster than ever before and enabled employees to access a wider range of information through their computing devices. This has in turn made it possible for organizations to be far more agile during periods of volatility and facilitated faster decision making by virtue of the almost instantaneous information exchange. However, this is more applicable for the services sector where physical interactions for transactions and decision making are being replaced with virtual meetings while sectors such as transportation, manufacturing and retail amongst others are still largely dependent on physical working. Additionally, it is often ignored that there are many pockets in our country where internet access is still a challenge, and this makes a remote working environment considerably more challenging for employees residing in such areas. It therefore becomes imperative for organizations to study the areas its employees operate from, especially those engaged in a work from home (WFH) environment, and either provide them access to wireless broadband internet using devices like dongles or create smaller workspaces for such areas where internet access is still a concern. Organizations must take cognizance of the fact that seamless information flow needs to be facilitated at all costs to ensure the workforce can contribute towards the common goals more effectively.
Integrating practices that promote a healthy work-life balance
While formulating policies regarding work practices, information management or even performance management, HR Leaders need to adopt an inclusive approach with an open mind to revise them periodically based on employee needs and challenges. With the Internet enabling 24-hour connectivity, employees are now accessible throughout the day and are thus susceptible to work fatigue; especially if an organization doesn’t have clear guidelines to prevent an overwork culture. To ensure that the lines between work and personal life do not get blurred in a WFH or Hybrid working environment, HR leaders need to re-imagine what constitutes a normal workday by implementing practices such as dedicating fixed time slots for breaks, ensuring no meetings post official timings and promoting mental health wellness initiatives for the betterment of all employees. Additionally, to protect the organization’s intellectual property and yet allow for a degree of employee freedom, internet access to social networking or file sharing websites can be provided during non-working hours so that employees can also pursue personal interactions. In fact, Enterprise Information Management is now closely linked to how employees can access the Internet from their official mobile or computing devices and hence necessitates that internet access protocol is carefully designed to achieve an ideal balance between company and employee interests.
Defining workplace policies that can facilitate greater collaboration
With estimates that two thirds of the employees will continue remote working in the future, HR managers will need to find unique ways of managing employee orientation, socialization and even performance management to ensure they are highly motivated and remain committed to the organization’s goal. Regular employee interactions will help in understanding their concerns and feedback, which should be used to tailor HR policies on a periodic basis. Facilitating collaboration amongst all employee levels will be key to the organization’s future success and requires managers to develop skills that can help them manage their team in both physical and virtual environments. Moreover, practices such as regular virtual employee engagement initiatives in conjunction with physical team-building events can promote camaraderie at the workplace and lead to greater collaboration.
With the world still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a combination of physical and virtual working will continue for most organizations due to an increased emphasis on social distancing and is here to stay for the years to come. It is therefore important for HR Leaders to carefully understand the various operations of the organization and implement policies that can empower managers to better manage their teams while also providing for a degree of flexibility to cater to employees involved in different functions.