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Employee experience critical in return to ‘new normal’, study shows

A disciplined return to work for Aucklanders and beyond is crucial to aid in New Zealand’s economic recovery, according to recruitment and HR specialist Randstad.

In Randstad’s latest research, 'The Impact of COVID-19 on Workers and Organisations', 85% of employers are focused on boosting employee performance and productivity.

Additionally, 36% of employees are expecting significant changes in their workforce. Randstad NZ country director Katherine Swan says this demonstrates employers and employees have acknowledged the way we work has to change.

She says, “Employee wellbeing is going to be key as we manage our economic recovery, which is why we are encouraging employers to be innovative with how they bring their teams back to the office.

“In the short term, we need to live with this virus in our communities, we need to adopt appropriate health and safety measures and evolve the way we work, which is why we believe a hybrid workplace will be our next normal.”

Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have shown innovation as they transitioned to working from home or introduced social distancing practises with how they work around people, and Swan says she believes that forward thinking approach needs to continue during the transition to a ‘next normal’.

Although many Aucklanders have returned to work this week, there is still a lot of anxiety in the community with new cases of COVID-19 reported daily, Swan says.

As the alert levels reduce, New Zealanders continue to face uncertainty with the potential to return to lockdown a possibility, she says.

Many employees may have got used to working from home, yet businesses need to focus on how they return their workforce to the office, while following government guidelines and keeping their employees safe, says Swan.

Chorus people and culture manager Shaun Philp says Chorus has always embraced flexible working, but the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance for all businesses to be ready to work remotely says.

He says, “The old-fashioned idea that employees need to be visible in the office to be considered working has been dismissed by the COVID-19 pandemic. At Chorus we have certainly proven that our workforce can be just as productive when working from home.”

Philp says, “In New Zealand we’re particularly fortunate to have fibre broadband available to over 80% of the population, with that number continuing to grow. What that means is we have the technology available to replicate a seamless workplace experience at home."

Philp states that some Chorus employees' work is best done from the office and some of its employees still prefer to be predominantly office based. Teams are being asked to consider the work they do and the needs of their customers when assessing the best way to work.

Swan says, businesses need to continue to innovate and learn from the success other businesses have had during this time.

She says, “An innovative approach is a sensible one. It means we do not have to have an economic meltdown every time we go into lockdown because we are prepared to transition our workplaces without causing disruption to productivity.”

The pandemic has also shifted New Zealanders' views on job security, and it is now the most important driver for employees considering staying or changing jobs, according to the research.

According to Swan, a company that is innovative and agile to respond to changes will create an employer brand that will help keep existing employees and attract new talent in the future.

Swan concludes, “It is heartening that employers are fighting so hard to protect their employees. Workforce adaptability and organisational agility are critical in driving productivity, responding to emerging opportunities and hence safeguarding jobs.

"It is vitally important for employers to provide transparent communications and, if possible, assurances about job security to avoid losing their best people to the competition.”