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Future of Work: Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis and Defining the New Normal

As companies continue to strive toward creating a new normal for their workforce, ChapmanCG continues its journey with the HR community to bring HR leaders together to exchange ideas in the hopes of navigating through the new landscape. 

In July we hosted our second webinar on the topic of Defining the New Normal, Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis & The Way Forward.

We would like to thank Cindy Kayo from Bloomberg, Taka Miyawaki from Nikko Asset Management and Makoto Ariga from Nihon M&A Center for sharing their perspectives and insights, and to all the attendees for participating in our in-webinar surveys. In this article, we would like to share some of the topics that were discussed during the webinar, as well as the unique approaches taken by our presenters.

Return to the Workplace

Based on our in-webinar survey, we found out that less than 20% of the workforce had physically returned to the office, and while some companies have fully standardised remote working, others are looking at ways to gradually bring employees back into the physical workplace. On this topic, Cindy Kayo, explained that Bloomberg is an organisation that highly values the energy and physical connection in the workplace and is taking a firm stance to restore this human element back into their daily routines. A phased approach with autonomy to each region is the way they have decided to move forward, as they meticulously analysed local data surrounding government stance, number of cases, travel, transportation, schools to come up with an concrete action plan to welcome employees back into the office. While many companies are favouring a long-term shift toward a hybrid model of virtual and physical, it was inspiring to witness a globally distinguished business with a strong philosophy on office culture.

Working Groups

In another of our group surveys, we learned that the top response to the “challenges of telework for the business” was the inability to meet clients F2F. With this major disadvantage in an investor-centric business, Taka Miyawaki from Nikko Global Asset Management describes how they were successful in immediately increasing their work-from-home capability from 70% to 100%, to confidently reassure their business partners they were able to continue operating with their daily financial market activities. What worked well for them was the assemblance of various working groups – a taskforce where people from different functions form a team which utilises both the sharing of internal knowledge and research of external resources to provide executives with the necessary data-points to make decisions on crucial topics. In the case of COVID-19, they formed a Corona Task force which worked very closely with an already existing workforce reform group (which had already tested remote technology and shared office facilities) to make timely decisions on providing their employees with the support they need. We believe this sort of agile mindset has a lot to teach us about working most effectively when we’re working differently and allow for quick shifts when organisations need to make fast adjustments to priorities and approaches.

Employee Wellness

As HR continues to be at the forefront of establishing the new normal and managing the crucial transition, there’s no doubt that HR leaders need to adapt to the changing needs of the business and especially the needs of the employees; making sure that people are feeling connected as well as engaged. We learned that most organisations were taking periodic surveys to find out how their employees were doing, how they were feeling, what they needed, and taking swift action through this data to provide the necessary support and frameworks to keep everyone healthy and happy. Makoto Ariga joined Nihon M&A Center in April 2020, during the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, described how he quite literally had to switch to virtual overnight – including his own welcome party. Since then he has been making a continued effort to restore a sense of fun and reassurance through introduction of “nommikai” chatrooms and allocating a budget for such online drinking sessions to promote camaraderie. Makoto commented that in a way, the virtual environment has brought some human element back into their highly professional workplace, ie. something as subtle as a pet or child interrupting a video conference often helps ease the tension of the meeting. Other examples of employee wellness initiatives that were shared from our panellists are the implantation of online yoga classes, virtual concerts, and virtual art sessions, most of which take place during work hours. Through these findings we found out that while productivity and performance remain important, looking after ourselves and finding new ways to evolve as an organisation is equally as vital.

For us, this session was a great learning experience to witness the empathy, creativity and agility of organisations and HR leaders who put their people first and continue to transform at an unprecedented pace. We look forward to carrying on these conversations and being at the heart of knowledge sharing and triggering unique ideas to navigate toward a new normal.

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