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The Challenges of Managing a Workforce during a Pandemic

Sandra Hannon, Global Head of Human Resources, Solve.Care
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Sandra Hannon is the Global Head of Human Resources at Solve.Care. She brings more than 20 years of experience in human resources, personnel management and talent development to the Solve.Care team. Prior to joining Solve.Care, Sandra served as Global HR Business Partner of LR Energy Inspection, where she developed the global people strategy and was a facilitator for the global culture transformation. With a special interest in the concept of Employee Engagement, she occasionally partners with a Dutch academic to conduct HR research.

What are your present key concerns and challenges for your employees and the organization?
Where to begin? Of course, the word “unprecedented” comes up often. Prior to Covid-19, I would have responded by saying resourcing and managing engagement. In fact, a few days prior to the mandated shutdown, we were sharing our most recent engagement survey results with the team and brainstorming our action plan with them.

A few days later, we realized that the shutdown was inevitable and shifted our attention to ensuring that our teams were enabled to work from home. This was from a technical perspective as well as mentally preparing  managers and people for the abrupt migration. An entirely different mentality is required for successful long-term remote work.  I have to say that our team responded with remarkable agility. Constant communication and resourcefulness ensured that we were able to transition online within 2 days with no let-up or lag in productivity.

At this moment, I would say the health and wellbeing of our workforce is our primary concern. Needless to say, that includes mental health. People are understandably anxious about the situation. They want to know what precautions we have taken, and if those precautions are being duly enforced. There’s a great deal of uncertainty.

How are you preparing the business for a staged return, and what measures are you implementing to keep everyone safe?
Now that we are coming out of quarantine, Facilities Management have prepared the office to ensure that people feel secure in the knowledge that the space has been prepared for their safe return. At this moment, we are maintaining a ‘soft-return policy’. People are not obliged to be here as yet, but are most welcome if they want to come in.

It’s critical that our people know that we are ensuring they are as safe as possible in the office. This includes mandatory temperature checks on arrival, provision of face masks, desks being re-positioned to ensure social distancing norms are met, a mandatory clean-desk policy, and a ramped-up cleaning and disinfection schedule to name but a few precautions.

However, keeping abreast of the status of the workforce at this time is challenging: who is working from home? Who’s coming in? Is anybody sick? Is it Covid-19? If yes, whom have they been in contact with? Are any family members travelling that might indirectly endanger our people?

We felt that if we, as a smaller organization were scrambling to manage the huge administrative task of tracking and supporting our now predominantly remote workforce, then larger organizations must be overwhelmed.  As a technology company, we knew we had the resources to create a solution – and so Team.Care was born.

What opportunities are you exploring from the learning from this crisis and will the journey change for your organization? If so, how do you see this manifesting for you, your HR function, and your employees?
As an organization, the pandemic has only affirmed that we have incredibly loyal, dedicated, and hardworking people. And there’s a fairly plain consensus that, whichever way the coronavirus is tending, the future of work is a blend of remote/office work. Using a tool like Team.Care, organizations will be able to dial their accommodation needs up or down based on personnel movements. For instance, we have been able to reduce the amount of floor space at the office by 40%  which of course has meant a significant reduction in operating and facility costs. I might add that recruiting for critical skills is easier in some respects as we are casting the net wider in the knowledge that we are successfully capable of inducting new joiners and getting them up to speed.

Finally, we have learned that social circles are strong, which is enormously gratifying. Even when they were separated by quarantine, our people found ways to get together and kick back. One example of this is our Friday Wine Night in our office lounge which morphed into a Zoom Wine evening very quickly and has become the highlight of the week for some!

What is it like to be a Senior HR Leader in these challenging times?
Maintaining a sense of perspective is important. Our CEO reinforced this in the first days of the quarantine by gathering every single member of the team to reassure them that it was not the first crisis that he had managed. As senior executives, we experienced the horrors of 911, Y2k, the 2008 recession. So, by steadily conveying how we intended to negotiate the quarantine, we were able to reassure the Solve.Care team (of which 77% are Generation Z!) that, come what may, we had every reason to be confident.

In summary, while we have to manage in the here and now and respond to the coronavirus, we want to ensure that we remain future-focused. In fact, we will likely look back on this episode as the period that we built the Team.Care Network in just over 4 weeks, with an entirely remote team!

For more information on what Team.Care can do in helping you manage your remote workforce, visit https://teamcare.solve.care/

Click here to watch the first in our series of ‘What’s next post Covid-19’ video interviews with Senior HR Practitioners

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