Adapting to a changing world of work and preparing for a post-COVID world #HRtogether

Dr Noraslinda Zuber is Director of Human Capital for the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

The Covid-19 pandemic is undeniably one of the world's most challenging to date. The effects of this pandemic can be seen across the globe, and our organisation is no exception.

Home as our office

Working from home has become a norm in the past two months. We had to quickly whittle down our 269-strong staff at HQ to just 22 officers performing essential services, while the rest of us work from home. The same arrangement is made for our sector institutions (mosques and madrasahs), and it was no mean feat for our policy units to quickly get this done given a relatively large workforce of >2,500 employees.

Beyond providing our employees with technological support like providing laptops, guidance on how to make use of virtual platforms while maintaining security of information that is shared online was equally crucial. Considering that our employees range from the young and IT savvy, to those who are more comfortable in a non-IT led work environment, it has indeed been a challenge. Furthermore, boundaries of work and home have blurred, daily routines have been disrupted and occasionally during virtual meetings, you could hear a baby crying or a cat meowing.

When it comes to delivery of our services, we had to swiftly adapt to leveraging technology to ensure business continuity. For example, in the mosques and madrasahs, community donations and religious classes have all been moved to online platforms. For our customers that needed support, such as students from low income families, we helped source laptops and broadband routers with support from various organisations.

We have been fortunate to have very supportive and understanding community stakeholders and partners who have rallied behind the organisation as we resolved the kinks involved in the abrupt shift to remote working. Empathy too is key, and our leaders and middle management team have truly shown their support for fellow colleagues in this new way of working.

The 3Cs – Communicate, Connect and Care

Communication is a critical component in how our organisation managed all that is happening. As early as the beginning of the year, our HR team has been sending out bulletins on latest updates regarding COVID-19. Infographics focusing on staff wellbeing and work-from-home tips, advice and information are also circulated. All these resources are emailed to staff and posted on our internal social media - Workplace by Facebook. These efforts help to keep our employees abreast of the latest happenings, allay their concerns and make them feel more assured.

Our line managers have also been consistently doing their parts in connecting with their teams, from regular check-ins (daily or weekly), to having virtual get-together activities like team lunches as well as sharing and learning. In fact, staff training and development has not taken a back seat, with many online learning workshops being made available to staff via our LEARN portal, where staff are encouraged to spend time to upskill themselves on various topics including mental wellness, which has become such an important topic in light of the changes and anxieties brought about due to COVID-19.

Our Staff Recreation Club (SRC) has also been actively promoting online forms of staff engagement, such as organising online exercise sessions via Zoom and has also launched several events/activities such as the best home workspace competition and a call for Raya videos from staff to be made into a collage. All these efforts have helped our employees adapt to the new normal – based on our recent pulse survey, over 90 per cent of our staff are adjusting well, and say that organisation has showed care towards their wellbeing.

Our organisation’s experience in managing COVID-19 has been an eye-opening experience for us, especially for our HR team (I am sure, this is similar with all other organisations and HR teams around the world). Agility and nimbleness in adapting to what needs to be done at a rapid pace is a given, while creativity and willingness to try new and different ways have taken centre-stage. The world of work has changed within a short span of time, and even as we adapt; preparing for the future of work, workforce and workplace post-Covid 19 needs to start today.

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