Work from Home: Transformation in HR Roles

The Covid-19 crisis has imposed a demand as well as created an opportunity for organizations to change their age-old operations. Many companies are taking this as an opportunity to reengineer their processes in order to be ready for any such scenario in the future. They have started thinking at a strategic level on how to reap benefits out of the current situation, and how to reduce their operational costs by offering the work from home (WFH) option permanently once the pandemic is over. TCS announced that 75% of its employees will be asked to permanently WFH and only 25% of its employees will be called to office. This move will also help the company cut on its physical office space demand drastically. It will also bring about changes in the overall structure of the organization. The larger structures will need to be transformed into flat structures. Organizations may change into various project based/ self managed teams instead of having tall hierarchies as in the previous regime. There may also be a demand for more participative management, peer support and a different evaluation system.

These drastic changes will also demand a lot of infrastructure demands for those working from home. These include providing employees IT support at home, comfortable work stations, phone, and internet facilities. It will also demand various coordination systems with regard to employee communication, work norms, scheduling meetings, norms for conducting meetings, etc.

Given the above issues, HR needs to act proactively and transform its role to handle the new normal in this scenario. HR needs to change salary components in terms of Internet, phone and printer expenses etc. HR needs to redefine rules and regulations governing employees. It needs to work on how it will evaluate and track the performance of employees, and how to provide support systems to employees. They need to redefine the hiring and firing policy. They need to redefine job roles and redo the job analysis to rewrite job descriptions and specifications for new recruitments and performance appraisal standards. They also need to come up with methods for job enrichment and rotation. And most importantly- how to ensure job satisfaction and motivation of the workforce given that employees will lack socialization and direct peer support system in a WFH situation. Also, how to keep the mission, vision and culture of the organization intact is one of the major issues on which HR needs to transform the organization into its new avatar. In a way, they need to start from the beginning and come up with effective HR strategies to deal with this new operational terrain in which no one had any prior experience.

This new situation has imposed a lot of challenges with regard to the issues raised above and demands various innovative strategies and policies to ease out the operational hurdles faced by employees and the employer. The HR fraternity needs to work in collaboration with employees to do the gap analysis to understand the scenario from their perspective and challenges faced by them before enforcing any unilateral decision. They need to learn from their own work from home lived-in experience and difficulties faced during the current situation. They also need to consider the external environmental challenges such as the economic conditions and the global political scenario to transform the organization in such a way that they are ready for the any such crisis in the future too.

Bhupinder Arora, Unitedworld School of Business (UWSB)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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