Few would have predicted that the first year of the third decade of the millennium would be turned on its head by a global pandemic. What was to be ‘twenty plenty’ became an anomaly with events that went beyond the realm of normal expectations and changed the way we work, live and play.
Most people have put 2020 behind them and set their sights on 2021. The main objective: not to get caught off guard again. Preparedness for the future has never been as high on the agenda for both individual and business. Be it upskilling to side-step redundancy and remain relevant, embracing technology and investing in digital transformation, and pivoting to turn profits, employees and employers have their work cut out for them in ensuring they are prepared for what lies ahead in 2021.
Productivity and performance
It’s safe to say that the new norm has created a working world where remote-based teams can coordinate efforts to successfully run a business. But success comes down to how well employees are equipped and supported by their employers in terms of remote working.
According to the Remote Working in South Africa 2020 Report, only 23.5% of companies had a detailed strategy in place for remote working prior to lockdown. What’s worse, 60.5% of South African businesses do not have a clear stance yet on whether they will allow continued remote working in future. This leaves a lot to be desired about corporate South Africa’s appetite for supporting employees’ desires for working from home.
“Employees’ lives will be no less complicated than they were during the hard lockdown. Individuals will increasingly look to their employers to equip them with the latest technology, tools and training so that they can be at the top of their game, day in and out. Not only will they expect to be empowered to get the job done, but also in their personal lives,” says Shabadh Mathura, Head of New Business at Hey Jude.
The flexible options offered by Hey Jude, a human-powered digital assistant, add value to the lives of employees and their families. The combination of essential solutions and humans in the loop – such as expert assistants, concierge drivers and qualified teachers – enables Hey Jude to solve what’s important to users and keeps them connected during the lockdown and beyond.
Employee health and wellness
The health and well-being of employees is critical to business success. The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone from CEO to general workers, with financial uncertainty, childcare and schooling challenges, and concerns related to family health and wellbeing among the major stressors.
“During the hard lockdown, we were receiving daily requests like getting medication delivered and finding suppliers of PPE equipment. But as the lockdown continued, we saw more health and wellness type requests come in, such as assisting with finding online workouts, arranging motivational speakers for webinars, and suggesting the best sleep apps,” says Mathura.
“Organisations need to implement processes that address mental health in the workplace, provide emotional support and encourage healthy lifestyles,” says Mathura. “With Hey Jude, employers can offer employees a direct line to experts for advice and support. If an employee is suffering from anxiety, they can be connected with a counsellor, or if they are battling to make ends meet, they can talk to a financial advisor to better manage their money, or even use Dial-A-Teacher for assistance with home-schooling.”
Attracting and retaining talent
The lockdown has given many employees time to consider their purpose in life and whether their career or the organisation for which they work is sustainable. Come 2021, employees and job candidates are likely to judge organisations based on its contribution to society, the environment and sustainability, and the satisfaction of their people rather than profitability.
“The role of HR will be integral in retaining and attracting talent. Leaders must empower HR executives to create and maintain a working environment and corporate culture that looks after the well-being of employees and cultivates purposeful work and productivity,” says Mathura.
“HR professionals should also be prepared and equipped to go fully virtual in terms of hiring candidates. We’re seeing more businesses looking at training technologies for onboarding employees remotely and enhancing this with digital assistants to walk employees through processes and be on standby to offer advice,” says Mathura.
By embracing and implementing technologies like Hey Jude now, businesses can better prepare and position themselves in 2021 to attract and retain talent and ultimately remain relevant in a post-COVID world.