Will COVID-19 drastically change the way we work?

It's 'definitely the accelerator' for organisational transformation – but hardly a change maker, says one HR head

Will COVID-19 drastically change the way we work?

COVID-19 is “definitely” a long overdue accelerator for organisational transformation, said Amit Singh, Head of HR for Asia & Japan at AXA Investment Managers.

“Things won’t be the same moving forward,” Singh said. “[But] I think COVID 19 is not the change maker.”

He used examples such as the sudden spike in the use of Zoom as a collaboration and networking tool. He reminded that the platform had always existed and wasn’t invented during the crisis. The uptake has simply increased because of the crisis.

“The need for change always existed and the need for flexible working or remote working was always there,” he said. “And that need [during] the crisis made companies suddenly change and be able to work remotely and deliver to their customers.

“Now that we know it is possible in most cases, there would be a greater push for moving towards flexible and remote working policies and guidelines.”

Singh had shared his thoughts at a recent panel discussion around remote work and HR’s role during the crisis, organised by Alcott Global. Of course, the panel was conducted virtually on the platform.

READ MORE: Why COVID-19 is aggravating leadership burnout

He said the crisis has helped proved that employees can remain productive while working remotely. Like many HR leaders, he hopes the changes made during the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way we work.

“Even if you take remote working…it was actually launched as an ad hoc measure,” he said. “The government forced a lot of companies to say, ‘Just go and work remotely’.

“But now, when the lockdowns are being eased, that same remote working [has become] a central piece to business continuity (BCP) because people start coming back to work in staggered team arrangements, which means part of the workforce would still be working remotely.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: HR & the rise of our ‘new normal’

He added that the focus on business continuity throughout 2020 continues to elevate HR’s role in the organisation, as leaders focus on providing support for ongoing changes and transitions.

“The broader question would be: with all these flexible arrangements, what other changes would come in?” he said.

“Would we start measuring performance and behaviours differently? As an example, would we be looking more at output as opposed to time spent at work?”

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