The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic back in March 2020, and while many countries, businesses and communities have been able to return to some sort of normality in 2021, the virus is still very much with us.

Experts agree that this form of coronavirus is here to stay, and rather than hoping for its eradication, the human race needs to learn to live with it.

For businesses, this means coming to terms with the fact that recent changes in working methods and new perspectives on the employer/employee relationship are likely to become permanent features of how you operate.

As you make your plans for the future, it will be crucial to be aware of these HR trends and to come up with effective strategies and solutions to deal with them. 

employee wellness

The pandemic placed a new focus on every employer's responsibility to protect the health and wellness of its employees. 

According to Gartner, some organizations responded to the crisis by prioritizing employee health, but others pushed their staff to work in high-risk conditions with little support, treating them as 'workers first and people second'.

The research firm stressed the importance of:

  • Being mindful of how you treat your staff and the long-term impact on the employee experience
  • Addressing discrepancies between how remote and on-site workers are treated
  • Involving task-based workers in your company culture and emphasizing inclusiveness

There are several examples of businesses that have made a special effort to offer more care and support to their workforce since the COVID-19 outbreak. Writing in Forbes, sociologist and author Tracy Brower highlighted the measures that have been introduced by Wiley, KPMG, ServiceNow and Monster, including enhanced parental and caregiver support, 'self-care' days as part of paid time off packages and apps to help with meditation, sleep, education and online therapy.

Having confidence in their employer to look after their physical and mental health has certainly become a bigger priority for many workers in light of the pandemic. In a survey by McKinsey, an increased focus on staff wellbeing emerged as one of the top hopes for the future among employees, along with a better work-life balance and more flexibility in day-to-day work.

Separate research ​​from Arizona State University, the World Economic Forum and the Rockefeller Foundation revealed that more than three-quarters of respondents viewed employee mental health as a top priority.

In this new environment, it's vital to protect your workers and place a big emphasis on their wellness if you want to deliver positive experiences and avoid losing valuable talent.

way of working

Another major repercussion of COVID-19 for many businesses was the impact it had on how people went about their everyday work. Governments all over the world advised that anyone who was able to work remotely should do so, which led to large portions of the labor force doing their jobs from home for the first time.

This was a big change for many employers - one that was an 'overwhelming success' for lots of businesses and their employees, according to a survey by PwC. The research also stressed that offices and physical workspaces are 'here to stay', but will be used primarily for team collaboration and relationship building, rather than routine tasks and everyday work.

The widespread shift to remote working created new perspectives on how work gets done and how greater flexibility on the part of employers can help individuals achieve a better work-life balance. In our Randstad Workmonitor report, more than a quarter (27%) of people said they wanted their employer to introduce more policies on hours to help improve their work-life balance.

build a flexible workforce

As businesses take stock of the current situation and make plans for the future, one of the clearest lessons to learn from the pandemic is the importance of adaptability, resilience and readiness for change, whatever form it takes.

Some companies - healthcare equipment manufacturers and frozen food suppliers, for example - saw a sudden increase in demand for their products and services. Others - such as high-street retailers and hospitality businesses - had to find ways to reduce costs and generate income when their traditional revenue streams dried up.

If you can learn from these challenges and find ways to make your organization more agile - by increasing the flexibility of your workforce, for example - you'll be better prepared for unpredictable events and adversity in the future.

Organizational design and change management will be one of the top five priorities for HR leaders in 2022, according to Gartner, with 48% of respondents to a survey focusing on it. Only building critical skills and competencies (59%) was ranked higher.

One of the most important responsibilities of the HR department will be to support the workforce during times of uncertainty. More than half (54%) of workforce leaders said their employees are already fatigued from all the change they have been through in the last two years.

learn more

These are just a few of the areas you might want to focus on to strengthen your workforce relationships, modernize your business and increase your chances of success in the post-COVID world.

There is much more to think about, including the significance of hybrid work arrangements - that combine remote and on-site working - and how flexible staffing could help you achieve a new level of agility and responsiveness.

We have created a guide that explores these and other issues in more depth, and provides further information on how you can navigate a rapidly changing, highly demanding business environment.