empty  subway car
PHOTO: Kit Suman

Has anything really prepared us for the impact of a global pandemic where so much business has come to a grinding halt, and the economy has effectively been placed in a coma? The recession of 2008 imparted some knowledge on leaders on how to manage adversity in business from both a financial and people perspective. Lessons were learned, obstacles were overcome, yet the challenges of that time seemingly pale in comparison to what we are enduring as a collective society today.

In February 2020, unemployment hit historic lows, and seemingly overnight, it then hit historic highs. While unemployment numbers will likely fluctuate based on which sectors of the economy reopen (and how quickly), such rapid and disruptive change is especially challenging on financial, personal and emotional levels, and different parts of the workforce are impacted more heavily than others.

Yet through it all, businesses and employees are rising to the challenge. Essential services like healthcare and manufacturing and supply chain are undertaking herculean efforts to operate, and virtually overnight, jobs that businesses never imagined could operate remotely are successfully doing so. But there’s so much more work to be done. We can learn from these trying times, shifting as we go.

The digital workplace and the tools businesses provide their people are more important today than they have ever been. When disruptions to business occur, the experience you provide to your employees is just as vital as the one you provide in a steady environment, and maybe even a bit more significant. During an emergency, how you treat your workers will be remembered when things go back to normal. In times of uncertainty and adversity, employees will look to HR and business leaders to provide tools for social interaction, information and a sense of safety.

What can employers do to ensure that workers are set up for success during trying times? The answer starts and ends with providing the right digital tools to get the job done. By now, it is probably obvious as to whether your organization has set your employees up for work from home success.

The Digital Workplace Provides a Feeling of Safety

Having a central location where employee information (benefits, pay stubs, etc.) is stored and can be accessed, updated and referred to when needed via desktop, tablet and mobile methods is critical to ensuring that employees are kept informed in times of uncertainty. Additionally, a central location where leaders can convey information is vital and can be used as a “hub” to disseminate information. Keeping employees and stakeholders well-versed on the company’s strategy moving forward shows transparency, trust and a team mentality. As companies move forward through the crisis, these things become paramount to ensure both physical and psychological safety of the workforce. 

Related Article: The Digital Workplace Hub: The Next Wave in Collaboration

The Digital Workplace Allows for Continuity

Workers are used to doing their jobs a certain way, but almost overnight, scores of employees who at one time occupied corporate offices were forced to become remote workers. From a business continuity perspective, having a digital landscape that is easy for employees to use, log into and access on any device goes far in terms of continuity of work. Collaborative digital tools ensure that teams can function effectively while remote.

If your organization provides these things for employees, monitor their usage in order to ensure they are being used efficiently and effectively by employees. If you find that usership is down or that programs are underutilized, perhaps it is time to provide training on best practices.

Related Article: Has Digital Transformation Left Your Business Continuity Plans Behind?

The Digital Workplace Helps Employees Feel Connected

The psychological aspect of prolonged isolation is sure to be far reaching, and vary from person-to-person, but don’t underestimate the power of the digital workplace and how it provides a meaningful connection for your employees. Employees should not feel siloed. They should still feel part of the team, even though physical presence is no longer an option. To take connectedness further, perhaps consider digital mentorship programs for employees — a “buddy” system of sorts where employees can check in with each other on a regular basis to ensure well-being and camaraderie.

Related Article: Putting Our Collaboration Tools to the Test

Take Inventory of Digital Tools During This Time

Use this time to determine which digital tools have worked for your organization, which need an upgrade, and what you might need to add to your digital ecosystem in order to ensure the experience you provide your employees during a time of disruption is the best that it can be.

The health and safety of everyone in the workplace is paramount, and as the “new normal” of work evolves employers and employees alike will rely even more heavily on digital tools to get things done. Evaluating your digital tools from the standpoint of safety, continuity and connectedness will aid in promoting a positive employee experience.

Companies that provide their employees a positive, productive and people-centered employee experience during these tough times will emerge from this crisis in a better position for success than those who do not. One way to ensure that your employee experience is solid is by viewing employees as end-user customers when it comes to looking at your digital people strategy.