Impact of Covid-19 on Companies’ Work Arrangements

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Chapter And Authors Information

Richard Kipkorir Rotich

Bomet University College, Kenya
Impact of Covid-19 on Companies’ Work Arrangements
From the Edited Volume
Edited By:
Prof. Bhavna Mehta
Content

Abstract

The current Organizations have had to adapt and put in place measures as they also remain alert to unplanned events and disasters that generate uncertainties and unknown threats to the work force reducing the organizations’ performance. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, organizations have had to develop solutions to circumnavigate the exceptional results due to the organization’s challenges. This Book chapter discusses the impacts of the Pandemic on human resource management with specific reference to work arrangements as organizations attempt to come up with ways to help its work force adjust to the altered working environment. The book chapter reviews literature on the subject matter from what researchers and other scholars have done. The new ventured work arrangements analyzed on the face of Covid-19 pandemic include Standard work schedule, flexible working hours, teleworking, hiring arrangement, and the shift system. The findings indicate that this is the way of the future workplace though not without challenges and other emerging effects on human psychology and behaviour thus calling for training ,culture and attitude change from the employees in the workplace.

Keywords

organization, human resource management, work arrangements, work force, Covid-19

1. Introduction

Most organizations have been faced with challenges that have made them alter their work arrangements. They are unsure of how they will get back the effective performance and still manage to remain at the top since most of them are struggling to survive. Since the world is interconnected, organizations have been left with no choice but to adapt responsive measures to the many diverse challenges brought about by Covid-19. The responsive measures that organization have adopted through the Human Resource Management, mainly lean towards flexible work arrangements (FWA)
The Human Resource Management’s environment has been made challenging by the Covid-19 pandemic. They have been forced to venture into unknown sources to keep their workforce amid the economic down turn that the world is facing. This has also affected the traditional work designs that orgaisation have been used to. There are varied flexible work arrangements. These arrangements have turned out compulsorily and applicable in organization’s current work environments. The Human Resource Management is tasked with selecting the most appropriate work arrangement, which can cause a great variance in the organizations. The new ventured sources of work arrangements have been analyzed here under: Standard work schedule, flexible working hours, teleworking, hiring arrangement, and the shift system.

2. Impact of Covid-19 on Companies’ Work Arrangements

2.1. Standard Work Schedule

The Standard work schedule for standard workers in an organization has been altered with these workers not performing their jobs on site. Due to Covid -19, the legal guidelines that have always been put in place soon became a song of the past; this is due to the fact that many onsite workers can not take their full-time work in offices, and the organizations have had to come up with ways to change the working positions and timings (DeFilippis et al., 2020).
Many standard workers must work from home or even work less hours or in shifts to complete their proportioned work assignments. Organizations that are inherently reliant on on-site or office staff, are finding it hard to figure out how work gets done. Consequently, this has altered how work gets accomplished now and in the future (Spurk & Straub, 2020). Whereas COVID-19 abruptly brought to an end the normal work routines, it also caused an acceleration of trends that were already underway involving the migration of work to online or virtual environments involving working from home remotely.

2.2. Flexible Working Hours

Flexible working hours can be achieved through combinations like working from home, compressed working hours, and customised working hours arrangements. Covid-19 has challenged the employer’s lookout, where they believe that employees subjected to flexible working hours are unproductive since they lack the drive and motivation to contribute their full time to the organization (Spurk & Straub, 2020). Organizations have changed their attitudes and adjusted their modes of working since Covid-19 has sparkled them. Human resource managers have to undoubtedly delegate employees to operate their office jobs from home as it is also rewarding and cost-cutting for the employees.

2.3. Teleworking

Teleworking refers to the remote work arrangement where employees can perform their work duties and responsibilities from home using emails and telecommunication technologies. This means work happens entirely away from an office setting. It can apply to both permanent and temporary jobs. With teleworking, employees can work from anywhere globally. Hence, even with the travel advisories issued by various states, employees required to travel for business have had to content with doing it at the comfort of their homes, throught the internet.
A Gartner (2020) survey of 229 Human Resource (HR) departments indicated that approximately half of the organisations had more than 80% of their employees working from home at the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and estimated substantial long-term increases for remote work after the pandemic. The need for millions of workers to Work From Home in response to COVID-19 has accelerated recent remote work trends facilitated by the rise of connectivity and communication technologies. While “remote work” is a broader category since it can include Work from anywhere not necessarily home (WFA) , it is known that some such as professionals who need to perform complex tasks that require little interaction with peers actually prefer and are more productive if they Work from home (Allen, Cho, & Meier, 2014).
Most companies have transversed from physical office work to working from home, making teleworking a technological equalizer since many people have to adapt to their office specialized tools at home (DeFilippis et al., 2020).
Teleworking has led to acquisition of new skills and knowledge of different technologies, which has made remote working even more efficient. Teleworking has proved to be effective in creating more trust between employees and management since emails, calls, and even meetings have all been made virtual. Teleworking is also limited to the kind of job one is engaged in since not all employees suit it.
In a study of the ‘virtual office’, Callentine (1995) argued that participants attributed an increase in job satisfaction to increased flexibility in the location and scheduling of their work. People who work from home also reported higher levels of job satisfaction. In their 2007 meta-analysis, Gajendran and Harrison (2007) found that working from home was associated with increased job satisfaction and reduced intentions of turnover.
According to Ramarajan & Reid, (2013), Employees often find it challenging to maintain boundaries between work and non-work activities. The forced confinement of workers during the COVID 19-pandemic has further complicated this issue.
According to Chow, & Keng-Howe (2006) in response to the changes and the conflict they generate among the multiple roles that individuals occupy, organizations are increasingly pressured to implement work practices intended to facilitate employees’ efforts to fulfil both their employment and personal -related responsibilities.

2.4. Telecommuting

Unlike teleworking which implies total remote working, with telecommuting there is partial remote working and partial office working. This flexible work arrangement mainly applies to employees residing locally as it necesitates employees to work from the office semi-regularly (Spurk & Straub, 2020. A telecommuting schedule that yields the most desired results is one where HRM allocate 2-3 days of a 5-days work week, for employees to report and work from the office.
Even with the persistent Covid-19 pandemic, some organizations have found it proper to implement telecommuting, especially where all the company employees are locals. A more efficient period for partial office/home working ha had to be developed based on the work capacities in the organizations. It should be noted that the flexible work arrangement has forced some companies to build new sets of managerial skills to enable management of the workforce working from home (Glazer & Press, 2013). There is a significant difference when considering research on practices such as Work From Home (WFH) before the onset of the Covid- 19 pandemic, in that WFH was previously often responsive to employee preferences but COVID-19 forced many into Mandatory Work From Home (MWFH).

2.5. Shift System

The pandemic’s economic consequences have led to underemployment that resulted to a decrease in working hours and incomes, leading to a loss of revenue for workers due to introduction of shift systems. Most of the positions are left hanging or of no use to the organizations, which calls for position sharing or shifting employees to help manage the workforce and maintain the operations (Dirani et al., 2020). The shift system, which is characterized by job sharing and part time work, is not among the most collective flexible work arrangements. However, this shift system can be the correct fit for some positions and businesses.
The process has resulted in inefficiency, and poor quality work delivery since some employees lack the skills needed in some positions leading to organizational ineffectiveness. Moreover, since the organizations have had to provide similar employment entitlements to the part time workers as the full time workers on pro-rata basis, the part time work has since become expensive for the organizations (Spurk & Straub, 2020).

2.6. Hiring Arrangements

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a massive blow to the hiring arrangements in organizations. Many restrictions that have been put in place to conduct the hiring process successfully seem complicated to organizations; therefore, they prefer to retain their old employees (Carnevale et al., 2020). With few to almost no recruitments happening in the crisis period, businesses relying on in-person interviews as a stage for contracting, now experience capacity cavities as these roles linger unfulfilled.
Organizations are also currently reducing employees due to reduced workflow and client’s inconsistency; therefore, the hiring process has been slowed, leaving many people jobless. The hiring arrangements have become a challenging task for the job seekers who do not have the required documents and the human resource management who find it hard to gauge required skills via phones and tele interviews (Sarbu, 2014).
The hopes related to COVID-19 unemployment have centered on an economic recovery unfolding fast enough that jobs lost to COVID-19 unemployment will largely be regained but that is far from certain. The large scale closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have further complicated typical advice for individuals who are unemployed to develop a regular routine of job search (Wanberg, Ali, & Csillag, 2020). An understanding of how these swift emergent changes unfold is important for practitioners who are charting way forward to address ( with new interventions) the needs of vulnerable categories of employees.

3. Other Measure Adapted by Human Resource Departments to Mitigate Business and Work Disruptions caused by Covid-19

The Human Resource Management field understood that most employees have low-stress management skills and therefore came up with coping response alternatives like engaging employees in challenging tasks that make them learn and grow for better opportunities to develop themselves (Dirani et al., 2020). Human resource management has also made a conducive work environment for all employees under stress to share their painful ordeals with other employees for a positive solution.
Human resource managers have also come up with training to support the relationship formation at work to enhance forward cohesion due to the sharing of frustrations, stress, and anxieties, hence making the employees strong regardless of their situations (Vnoučková, 2020). Human resource management’s cross-cultural training enhances effective communication between colleagues of different cultures, hence improving peaceful workflow. The training offered is also a chance for professional growth among employees that may strengthen their psychological competence (Hamouche, 2020). Further understanding is required to determine whether structural efforts to optimize working conditions via job redesign and job crafting can be as effective now as compared to pre-COVID-19, this is in agreement with Oprea et al. (2020).

4. Discussion

The emergence of COVID – 19 pandemic has had a lot of challenges on human resource management practices. This is due to the evidences presented by different scolars and researchers shortly at the onset of the pandemic and during the pandemic period. Routines have been disrupted as evidenced by arguments advanced by Spurk & Straub, (2020) and DeFilippis et al., (2020).
However the disruptions of routines leading to near impossible standard work arrangements opens doors for flexible work arrangements which are a current phenomenon in human resource management. This in itself motivates staff as it enhances worklife balance which is an emerging issue in human resource management especially in the low and middle income ecnomies. It also cements the family unit leading to appropriate parenting as parents would be available to mentor their children through bonding and interractions that will build the social fabrics of the society. Productivity would be improved since employees will not carry their home pressure to the work place that can otherwise result in stress and burnout.
Conversely the benefits of physical interractions among employees would be lost as social distance is maintained due to use of flexible work arrangements that separate employees from the work place and from each other. The belongingness and security needs of employees as per Maaslow hierarchy of needs will be lost. This is because of employees not used to working away from each other and workplace possibly resulting in psychological distress which may in the end lead to occupational challenges leading to mental health problems.
The flexible work schedules are beneficial at the same time having negative effects on employee weelbeing and productivity. At the initial stages it may be problematic but as people get used to the arrangements it would be beneficial to both the employee and the organisatin they serve.

5. Conclusion

Covid-19 has impacted many organizations and human resource management as a whole. Many organisations have had to analyze their operations and urgently fix the working system to fit into the current work place. The human resource managers have had to develop ways to mitigate business without causing alarm and make sure the organization is competing successfully amid the post-Covid-19 challenges. Virtual work practices are likely to spread as organizations realize the cost-savings from structuring the work force with fewer full-time employees and more contractors connected technologically and perhaps with less office space in light of the health risks known to be associated with conventional open-plan offices. The mitigation efforts comprising telecommuting, teleworking, flexible work hours, shift schedule, and the standard work schedules have assited the organizations cope with the pandemic, even as they hope for everything to get back to normal. The challenges for employees working in this manner are clear: most of them will need to learn to work in ways far different from how people did in past generations. The findings indicate that this is the way of the future workplace though not without challenges and other emerging effects on human psychology and behaviour.

6. Recommendations

From the foregoing, it is therefore recommended that human resource managers in organisations need to consider the foolwing to enable them handle human resources in the dynamic world at their workplace.
1) Employee training , culture and attitude change programs to enable staff adjust and see the changes positively for the better .
2) Inculcalate in employees work discipline that enables them to work away from the supervisors eye. This means that even if they are working from their remote locations they are able to persue the organisations goals without being at the workplace physically.
3) Orgainsations should provide a budgetary support to enable employees actualize teleworking and telcommuting. The cost of accessing the internet is quite expensive to the employees and if there is no resource allocation the implementation may become a fallacy.
4) Business organisations need to consider policy change and come up with appropriate strategies to determine performance by employees away from the work-place and classify jobs that can be executed using the flexible work arrangements.

7. Acknowledgements

acknowledge the guidance of God in the entirety of this exercise from the conception of the idea to the end. I also appreciate the services of pecoty cherono who assisted in proof reading of the manuscript . Iam greatly indebted to CHRP Priscila Iteyo for her invaluable input to the document as a human resource specialist in the university college. God bless you all for your input.

References

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Callentine, L. U. (1995). The ecology of the mobile workplace: Influence of household composition and home workspace on satisfaction, stress, and effectiveness. Unpublished master's thesis, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Carnevale, J. B., & Hatak, I. (2020). Employee adjustment and well-being in the era of COVID-19: Implications for human resource management. Journal of Business Research.

Chow, I. H., and Keng-Howe, I. C. (2006). The effect of alternative work schedules on employee performance. International Journal of Employment Studies, 14(1), 105-130.

DeFilippis, E., Impink, S. M., Singell, M., Polzer, J. T., & Sadun, R. (2020). Collaborating During Coronavirus: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work (No. w27612). National Bureau of Economic Research.

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