For many of us around the world we are facing great uncertainty, forcing us to reassess our daily lives - from work and school, entertainment and leisure through to relationships and general well-being.
Whilst many front-line workers within healthcare, food retail and emergency services are exposed to long working hours, the rest of us are now living behind screens and locked doors. Many manufacturing organisations who were previously resistant to the concept of a distributed workforce, have been forced to work from home, and in turn, fast track their digital transformation.
The new ‘normal’
For several others, working from home is ‘business as usual’ and they will experience little change in their daily work routine. But, what about the others who now must adjust? I don’t necessarily mean from an IT perspective but from a morale and mental well-being aspect. Many thrive from face-to-face conversations and support of colleagues and will now struggle with the separation. Without these daily interactions it can be much harder to form trust in relationships and remain motivated. Arguably, productivity for some employees may boost due to less commuting hours and more flexibility whereas for others, they may engage with more reserve, distrust and lower levels of goodwill, impacting efficiency levels.
Having spoken with several stakeholders within manufacturing, they admit that their biggest challenge right now is boosting the morale of their staff and colleagues. More than ever before, employers are responsible for offering daily support and reassurance for employees; for those who live alone, this is a vital piece of communication.
With several manufacturing companies forced into a temporary shut down or into furloughing part of their workforce, Facebook and WhatsApp group chats are becoming their main source of communication. However, some companies are still failing to connect and communicate effectively, leaving employees uncertain around their employment status and anxious to receive ongoing communication, transparency and empathy.
Organisations leading by example
Many are fortunate enough to have employers offering exemplary support and ensuring that the health and wellbeing of their employees remain at the forefront of their people agenda. These organisations are listening to their people, understanding their concerns and fears and communicating daily.
Manufacturing companies who are doing this well are keeping spirits up with daily team zoom sessions, virtual exercise classes; quizzes; happy hour; coffee breaks as well as daily email wellness & mental health advice and tips on how to plan your time. One organisation has even gone to the lengths of organising office food deliveries to avoid employees shopping at night and facing limited supplies.
As we move forward and restrictions start to lift, the challenge around cash flow, heavy borrowing and the inevitable strain on balance sheets will remain. Therefore, highly efficient human capital strategies will be vital to boost employee productivity and drive revenues and profit.
What remains to be seen is whether the current working from home model will remain in some form. Will organisations maintain the current importance around employee communication strategies, and will employee relationships come out of this stronger than they were before? One thing I do recognise is that in the future, employee branding will need to evolve and be digitally smarter to draw organisations even closer together.