This time on Condatis ‘Meet the Team’, we’re speaking with our Chief People Officer (CPO) Jess Igoe.
Jess, has managing the Condatis team in a global pandemic been the most difficult job you’ve done?
The global pandemic has impacted so many aspects of our lives – work, children, lockdown – and supporting a workforce during it was something that I had never done before (or likely anyone has ever done before). The HR team at Condatis recognised early on that frequent communication from the company to employees was crucial. We wanted to keep our employees ‘in the know’ and informed regarding our approach to COVID. We also asked for their feedback, which helped shape our approach to supporting employees and clients during COVID.
The most difficult part of managing HR in a global pandemic is that it’s constantly changing. The most important aspect that an HR professional can do is to listen to employees and keep up to date with news on the virus and changing legislation.
How have people adapted to working in new ways? Have there been any positive changes you’ll keep post-COVID?
There’s no denying that COVID has greatly impacted and changed the way that we work. We made the decision early on to implement working remotely due to COVID. We saw ourselves in a period of adjustment, trying to find our way through this new working environment. One of the things we implemented was holding weekly line manager meetings. This allowed for the Senior Management Team and the Team Leaders to have open communication, provide feedback quickly and for the organisation to react quickly.
We also recognised the need for supporting the culture and continuing social interactions. When everyone is working from home, we no longer had Pizza Wednesdays or chats when making a cuppa. We had to find new ways to socially support our staff when the country was going into lockdown. We organised things like weekly fun challenges where the winner selects a charity to donate to and virtual pizza sessions.
For many of us, working was an escape from having to deal and think about COVID. It wasn’t just changes to our workplace location, but also all the other changes going on in our lives – children being home schooled, taking care of elderly relatives. There has been fear and anxiety about the virus, which can be quite overwhelming at times. All of this impacts people and we took the approach – Take care of yourself and your family first. I think that resonated with our team that we didn’t just care about their work and contribution, but for them and their families as we all come to grips with working and living in a global pandemic. And I must admit – the entire Condatis team has been amazing and supportive during COVID. We have a great team that was extremely supportive of one another and dedicated to the company’s success.
There are several changes that have occurred under COVID that I do think will continue post-COVID. We now know that we can all work remotely so there will be more flexibility to remote working. Also, the relationship between the Senior Management Team and line managers has proven to be so useful. We now receive feedback and suggestions more frequently that we can then action.
Has working remotely changed how we interact and do you think remote working is here to stay?
We all have been on that call where our Teams or Zoom shuts off or your face freezes in a horrible position. Or perhaps your wifi decided to kick you out and you have to jump on your mobile phone to go back into the call. There are countless examples of how working remotely has been challenging at times!
I look back to mid-March when we decided to have everyone work remotely. We went through a period of change. At first, it seemed like everyone was invited to every meeting, every meeting way overly long, and there were so many meetings that there was little time to do any work. We had to adjust to this new way of working, which took time. We asked for feedback from employees and we worked together to improve our working style in a remote working session.
Remote working is a very feasible option for us. We are all able to work and do our jobs completely from our homes. I think the question is: Would our employees want to work from home all the time? This answer will be different for each individual. Things to consider include the home working environment, commute time, missing social contact, wanting to get out of the house more, etc.
My view: a version of home working is here to stay. I don’t think it will be the 100% lockdown version we are experiencing in COVID. But I also don’t think we will return to the 9-5 we experienced pre-COVID. The working pattern and location as we ease out of lockdown will be agreed in a consultative manner with employees, taking individual needs into consideration.