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The lasting legacy of COVID-19 in the world of HR

23 April 2020 5 min read

covid-19 hr

In the last 20 years, the face of HR has changed dramatically, and HR professionals have been thrust into the limelight, asked to think proactively and creatively on topics that vary from holiday allowance, employee wellbeing, and mental health, to issues related to absences and presenteeism. With the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year, this task was suddenly made much harder, and the pressure put on the shoulders of HR professionals intensified.

With HR teams having to react quickly to deal with strategic and legislative changes, while also supporting businesses operating in a crisis, we are taking a look at three key impacts on HR policy in the wake of the pandemic.

1. Changes in leave entitlement

The first policy to be impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19, and one that will certainly have repercussions in years to come, is to do with the government announcement regarding holiday rollover for key workers. A step applauded by many, that meant key workers could focus on the job at hand, with no worry about their annual leave, but one that created a complex problem for businesses.

With employees able to spread their holiday allowance over the next 2 years, how will businesses working at the same capacity manage a workforce that is entitled to more holiday in 2021 and 2022? Companies are looking at the likelihood of being understaffed with fewer working days to get business done.

Now is the time to action plans related to the carry-over holiday conundrum, for small and large businesses alike. Time is needed to implement and automate smart systems that are flexible to change and will help manage annual leave requests while providing invaluable data relating to staff. A remote workforce needs added support because working from home does not ensure appropriate downtime, and if anything, the chance of burnout is higher than ever. Management needs help to track who is and who is not taking time off and need to be able to encourage their teams to do just this.

2. Increased requirement for mental health support

Burnout, employee wellbeing, and mental health have never been so important. We see from all walks of life now that the topic of mental health becoming far widely spoken on. And rightly so considering the start to 2020 we have all had.

The coronavirus has forced us into self-isolation, which comes with increased anxiety over a lack of social contact, the safety of our loved ones, financial pressures, and increased workload to mention a few. Businesses need to be and should be putting the wellbeing of their remote workforce at the forefront of their agendas because the repercussions are huge. At a business level, workers that experience burnout will be less productive and efficient with obvious financial implications. But on an employee level, when we emerge from this pandemic, individuals will assess how well their companies dealt with the situation, and if inadequate could be caused to part ways.

This is an important topic, with effective and present wellbeing strategies being used by employers as a reason people should work for them. If your business lacks here, you can expect to witness the fallout at some point. By implementing systems that can track trends and offer employees with resources that help them manage the situation, while also offering managers insight and the ability to engage with and mentor team members, the business will emerge far stronger and far more productive than they were at the beginning of the year.

3. The dangerous new face of presenteeism

A CIPD report has commented that ‘absenteeism’ has decreased since the year 2000, whereas the theme of presenteeism has become far more widely used. Ironically, both pose similar challenges. The former impacts the business with fewer people doing their job due to being out of the office, the latter encourages poor work and a heightened chance of burnout, which then impacts the business in the same way if the employee had decided to call in sick.

Both have been hard to track effectively, but with workforces stuck working from home the issue becomes far more complex, especially in the case of ‘presenteeism’. Businesses need data and relevant intelligence around tracking staff sickness in the wake of the coronavirus to ensure staff is logging sick leave when they are sick, rather than just working through it while working remotely.

On top of this, the software will need to adjust to the circumstances we are working through to account for different reasons for absence and sick leave. With employee health under even more inspection businesses need to be ready to manage their sick workforce.

The recent global pandemic has imposed more change onto HR professionals at a time where HR teams were already being tasked to spearhead creative and strategic initiatives within their organisations. We can appreciate that these are testing times, but by investing in meaningful software that can help you stay on top and manage holiday requests, support your teams when it comes to mental health, and provide you with data that offers intelligence and insight, the better safeguarded you are to handle the health emergency now, and the better prepared you will be when we re-emerge at the end of it.

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Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
April 23, 2020

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.