New Work-Life Era: BC (before coronavirus) and AD (after domestication)

Has the pandemic changed work culture forever? Are we going to label it now as BC and AD (before coronavirus and after domestication, respectively)? From the employees’ perspective, the change has many thinking of setting work-home boundaries. For companies, it’s how to create a new work environment online. 

To date, many employees are still adjusting to the significant changes the pandemic has brought upon their daily work activities. Some employees have shown their lack of confidence in their employer’s response to the outbreak. 

A Glassdoor survey demonstrates that 3 out of 10 employees observed employers unresponsive to the effects of the pandemic. With the majority of their workforces working remotely, employers are now looking to new methods to gain back their trust in the company. 

Prior to the pandemic, employers had already been collaborating with key managers in an attempt to improve employee experience. From work shifts to company hangouts to even changes in company culture, it’s clear that a boost in employee morale was a priority for most companies. 

But on the onset of the pandemic, companies are finding it difficult to maintain high morale without executing the conventional in-person social events that aim to build healthy relationships within the company. 

According to a Bloomberg article, several companies, known for their work-life balance culture, had taken different steps in keeping their employee-centered reputation but found one thing in common: They’ve assured employees needed time off, following an increase in stress levels most likely due to the fear of layoffs.

Work-life balance at home   

Statista mentions that 17% of US employees working remotely increased to 44% due to the pandemic. This surge in remote workers proves that companies would rather adapt and continue business operations than wait for a vaccine to dictate when they should resume. 

The challenge for companies adopting a virtual workforce model is to achieve work-life balance in a work-from-home setting. An advantage of working remotely allows employees to develop good time management skills and in return, have ample time with their loved ones. The disadvantage is that remote working, albeit flexible, pressures employees to be on alert around-the-clock, adding more hours of working.  

A research conducted by MIT, emphasizes the unclear boundaries between work and personal lives when working from home. Even before the imposed quarantines, remote employees found themselves working an extra hour each day. But currently, they’re finding themselves logged on more hours than they were before the outbreak started.

The research found that providing allowances for workers to organize their schedules with respect to their personal duties a favored tactic. Other companies mentioned that they’ve had to nudge their employees to stop work beyond the designated working hours to prevent burnouts. 

Mental health awareness

The shift to remote working doesn’t come without its repercussions on mental health. Effects of forced social isolation mixed with high anxiety levels overwhelm employees causing a decline in productivity. 

Michigan Health stresses the importance for employers to identify indications of mental health problems within their company. It encourages adopting an employee assistance program to equip businesses in handling mental health issues their employees are facing. With the right program, businesses avoid preventable work performance issues derived from mental health conditions.  

Furthermore, employers are urged to communicate with their employees more proactively. An employer’s failure to clearly disseminate important company updates, coupled with the stresses of an employee’s adjustment to the new norm of remote working, results in businesses having poor employee experience.

Global mobility hurdles

The virus forced borders to close and tight travel restrictions, leaving companies with dispersed employees to handle the complications of directing a mobile workforce. Global mobility managers responded differently to the pandemic. Some had temporarily cut off existing assignments while others resumed relocations in compliance with safety precautions.  

With varying approaches to mobile staff deployment, companies need to meticulously keep track the location of their employees, the date they started working, and the duration of their assignments. As a result, companies are able to communicate to them their position on tax obligations.

To aid in acquiring data on real-time employee movements and work progress, companies are now eyeing on the latest technological solutions. Having such software alerts managers to arrange repatriations ahead of time when assignments are close to end.

Another hurdle global mobility managers face is the decreasing number of assignees. Relocate Global notes a negative outlook on assignment numbers as companies foresee tighter travel restrictions and cost cutting measures to cope up with the expenses brought about by the virus.

An alternative companies are considering is a switch to virtual assignments. It is unclear whether the alternative can replace the traditional assignment model in the long term, but it can prove useful as a temporary solution in the middle of a pandemic. 

Although this potentially cheaper assignment model is not subjected to travel restrictions, managers are faced with more complex tax compliance issues, in addition to confusing working hours because of differing time zones.