COVID-19: Dealing with issues of productivity, job insecurity and psychological stress.

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The times that we are living in are not normal. Due to COVID-19 and it’s subsequent lock-down, people and organisations today are dealing with : issues of productivity, job insecurity as well as economic and psychological stress. The pressing question is: how do we address these underlying issues? 

So, with an intention to hear an expert opinion on roles leaders of organisations must play in unique times likes these, we invited Mr. Prayas Rajopadhyaya  to blincventures.com podcast series . Currently serving as the Director at Jobsdynamics.com, Mr. Prayas Rajopadhyaya has had more than half a decade of experience in the field of HR consulting, strategic policy drafting, and training. Mr. Rajopadhyaya is an expert in organizational behavior, policies as well as strategies, and he has been closely observing  key trends in Nepali job market during COVID-19 pandemic.  The article below covers the highlights of that conversation.

Which industry or sector do you think has been most badly hit by COVID-19 ?
It’s evident the tourism, aviation and hospitality sector and sectors that depend on social interactions like fest and event management companies have been most badly hit.

Have you noticed any key trends in regards to how companies are adapting to COVID situation, maybe in terms of hiring or laying off or other policies?
Initial responses of many companies have been to adopt remote working policies. Secondly, few companies are asking for PCR tests before hiring new people. Lay off is a last resort of any company, before going for that option businesses are putting employees on leave without pay. Till the time there are enough resources, employees should be given fair-share and companies are doing that as of my observation.

Employees are facing job-insecurity now, how can Employers ensure a sense of security for their employees?
In this time of looming insecurity, even employers are uncertain about what’s going to happen. So, building mutual trust is the key right now. Trust can be built by being authentic,transparent intention, empathetic and using justifiable logic. Similarly, organisations should be more caring towards their employees and should use language of vulnerability than language war because in war we engage overwork. So, treating people as people by asking simple questions like: How are you? What can I do for you is the key to build trust and security.

If the situation persists Employers may have to make decisions like : salary cuts or even lay-offs. How can they make these decisions more empathetically?
Companies may have to make these harsh decisions as we do not know when the lock-down will end or companies may run out of their cash reserves.  To answer your question I would like to mention an example of AirBNB who and to lay-off many of their employees. The CEO of AirBNB did this by making  an apologetic public statement , by recommending AirBNB’s employees to other people who would be willing to hire them, and by following SCARF principles. You can watch the full episode on Evolving role of HR during COVID-19 here

Do you have any tips on how entrepreneurs can manage productivity of their employees ?
Productivity has been the buzz-word of this lockdown. First of all Employers should accept the fact that we are at home, in a pandemic , trying to work. Many people nowadays feel productivity guilt, they feel overworked, they work for 16 hours and still feel productive. This condition over stimulates people’s brains, they feel distracted and they do not get things done, this becomes a vicious cycle. So, people work hard for the sake of working hard, and not because they are working in the right direction. This can lead to burn out.
So, employers need to understand that it’s a lockdown and employees have their hands tied down in many ways, and they should encourage creative solutions rather than enforcing forced positivity and productivity. The key is to work in space where it is required.

When things do get normal how can we ensure smooth transition back to normal working days
I can already sense a change in human behavior. Sanitization will become regular, open office space will not be as popular because norms of social distancing will be implemented.  In the beginning things will be awkward but share understanding and shared identity and psychological safety is required for smooth transition.

Thank you Prayas Rajopadhyaya for this insight.
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