The COVID-19 virus has spread to all continents except Antarctica over the past two months, infecting people in various parts of the world. While a global pandemic has been a looming possibility for decades, COVID-19 has come as a surprise.
To people, health systems, economies, and governments around the globe the pandemic affected culture, mindsets, and business structures. Even though the progression of the virus has slowed down, it has most likely forever altered the way organizations run and manage their workforce.
In this article, we’ll take a deep look at the main workforce challenges after the COVID-19 pandemic and different ways to mitigate their impacts.
COVID-19 impact on the labor market:
- The unemployment rate in the U.S. soared to 14.7 per cent in April, the worst level since the Great Depression, as a good number organizations shut down or significantly reduced activities to limit the spread of the lethal coronavirus.
- The Labor Department recently communicated that 20.5 million workers lost their employment unexpectedly, wiping out a decade of job growth in a single month.
- There is a growing fear that the impact will intensify as people slip out of the middle class and millennials strive to start careers.
- Analysts suggest that it could take years to return to the nation’s 3.5 per cent unemployment rate reported in February, partially because it’s vague what the post-pandemic economy would look like, even if scientists are making steady progress on a vaccine.
- A decline of 10.5 per cent is now anticipated relative to pre-crisis rates (Q4 2019), equal to 305 million full-time workers (assuming a 48-hour workweek).
- More than 436 million companies worldwide face high risks of severe disruption. The businesses are in the most affected economic sectors: 232 million in wholesale and distribution, 111 million in construction, 51 million in accommodation and food services, and 42 million in real estate and other business activities.
Major post-COVID-19 workforce challenges and how to deal with them
1. Many workers are facing mental distress
The recent pandemic has greatly impacted the mental health of workers. Many of them have unexpectedly lost their jobs. This caused millions of Americans to resort to food banks, receive first-time federal assistance or avoid paying rent and bills.
Going without a paycheck for weeks has led many people to lose their health insurance coverage. Others even put up their homes for sale.
In a study commissioned by mental wellbeing company Ginger, almost 7 out of 10 workers suggested that the coronavirus pandemic is the most difficult time in their entire professional career. Consequently, prescriptions for antidepressants, antianxiety and anti-insomnia drugs have spiked in recent times.
How employers can help
The mental impact of the pandemic differs based on the work environment and the worker’s position. Hence the effect on the mental health of the employee is expected to vary. The most straightforward way to deal with mental burnout is by encouraging employees to voice out their concerns to your HR department.
Even if you cannot guarantee their job security, it is crucial to be transparent. Organizations should create or enhance workplace policies that support the prevention of stigma towards those that may have been previously infected. Establishing zero-tolerance anti-discrimination legislation is a powerful mechanism for defending workers. This in turn will reduce harassment and increase occupational safety and wellbeing.
2. Misinformation and stress is reducing productivity
UNESCO reported that unreliable and misleading evidence is circulating around the world, with ‘barely an area untouched by misinformation’. All this misinformation only contributes to more paranoia, increased stress, and may even put people’s lives at risk.
According to a study, 62 per cent of employees report losing productivity for at least one hour a day due to COVID-19-related stress, with 32 percent losing more than two hours a day. This can prove very costly to employers, as a prior study suggests that losses in productivity due to COVID-19 stress can reach higher than $23 billion.
How to deal with misinformation and reduced productivity
Clear, concise, and transparent communication is essential to tackle fake news. Managers need to establish a communication plan, in conjunction with human resource management, which outlines the organization’s continuity strategy during the pandemic.
In fact, management should continue interacting with their workers even if they are not physically present on the job (teleworking). Additionally, employers should include workers in planning the post-pandemic strategic strategy. This would promote healthy decisions, behaviors, and improve team unity. Communicating on the pandemic situation and its effects can significantly lower unnecessary stress.
3. Human Resource departments are under heavy pressure
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, less than 50 percent of businesses had a remote work program. The shift to the remote work culture is not as smooth as it may look. Overnight, HR leaders have had to adapt to the situation and find new ways to remotely manage their workforce.
From training employees to use remote work tools, remotely measuring engagement and productivity or keeping up with the flexibility of working hours – the human resource department may seriously feel the weight on their shoulders.
How to ease the pressure off your HR department
Turning to the automation of repetitive tasks can greatly help your human resource team blow off some steam. For instance, consider trying a scheduling software as this can potentially save hours and help you with forecasting. With today’s connected technology, turning to automation tools can increase your HR department’s efficiency and productivity.
Off you go
The COVID-19 crisis has affected communities and economies around the world and continues to remodel our planet. Whilst the impact of the crisis amplifies familiar challenges as well as introduces new threats, change on this scale often offers new opportunities to better respond to challenges.
The deep uncertainty about the virus and its course and how others will respond only adds to the value of properly addressing workforce challenges to ensure we can build a better future.