Adnan Adams Mohammed
Human resource experts are calling on organizations and individuals to invest in virtual infrastructure and assets that will make employees deliver in the new work environment brought about by the Coronavirus Pandemic as it poses as a strong trigger for reforms to embrace technology intensive workplaces globally.
Dr Vivian Osei, a senior Lecturer at the Department of Human Resource and Organizational Development at KNUST noted that, the workplace for some employees have moved to the home with inappropriate set up for work coupled with destructive surroundings.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) statistics; only 10.7% of households in Africa have computers in 2019 and internet use was just about 28% when Europe was 83%. This inherently does not support the current situation where most workloads at workplaces are to be done at home to reduce the human-to-human contact hours at workplaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With technology and proper capacity building, everywhere could become the workplace”, Dr Osei posited during her presentation at the University Of Cape Coast School Of Business fourth session of the E-seminar organized on the topic: “Coronavirus Pandemic: implications for workplace reforms and employee wellbeing.”
In this pandemic era with attendant downsizing actions by many organizations to cut cost as part of organizations operational cost management decisions, Dr. Osei advised organizations to place a premium on human dignity, pain and empathy to inform any employee who out of extreme consideration and with regards to the law has to be laid off.
Some HR experts have noted that the pandemic has placed much attention on health and safety measures at workplaces unlike before which a positive point to sustain post-COVID-19 era, but a little more efforts are needed in terms of investments into office layouts to sustain the benefits to employees.
Labour experts, therefore, are calling on Governments in Africa to invest in ICT to enhance inclusion of employees and potential employees in the new workplace because access to the internet and ownership of computers in households are abysmal and that this should attract attention. Whilst, employees to protect data and information of their organizations with upscale sensitivity saying flexible workplace and working hours should not increase the risk of organizational secrets and information.
The Dean of the Business School at UCC, Prof. John Gatsi in his introductory comments supported the call for increase investment in ICT to enhance the correction of disruptions to work.
He asked Human Resource experts to unearth other critical challenges that the pandemic has brought apart from job losses such as health and safety, illnesses related to COVID-19 but not through infections to establish a basis for comprehensive solutions.
Mr. Francis Eduku, the Vice President and Human Resource Direc
tor of Goldfields Ghana Limited in his opinion believes that, one of the issues labour unions and leaders are silent about is the effect of the pandemic on a psychological contract which is about the unwritten contracts which cannot be found in the collective bargaining agreements but have become part of the work culture, motivation and recognition.
He emphasized that all these things have been eroded such that all the unwritten promises made by management and employers to employees for which performance was good could not be fulfilled. He explained that with a situation where people work from home and virtually in many cases nobody is providing workplace socialization, acknowledging and recognizing as before. In some cases, no employer is interested in whether the home setting provides a conducive environment to work.
Mr. Eduku noted that some workers are isolated and filled with anxiety and therefore called for collaborative, caring and engaging relationship between employees and employers.
In this regard, academia, especially the Department of Human Resource Management of the School of Business is being charged to conduct a survey into the impact of the pandemic on psychological contracts to provide a balanced perspective of the effect on employees.
The Executive Director of the Institute of Human Resource Practitioners Ghana, Dr. Agbettor encouraged employers not to live in fear that the multiple work locations and flexibility being experienced will expose their vital information to the wrong people. He rather asked employers to build such capabilities for their employees to improve trust. Stressing that COVID-19 has increased socialization risk for both employers and employees because their source of joy, sharing of experiences for a long time is the interaction at fixed workplace.
The challenge now, he said, is how to build into the new work models the workplace socialization. He appealed to employees to provide interest-free loans to employees if they have the means and alternatively negotiate with financial institutions for flexible loans to their employees to minimize financial anxiety.
Dr. Nana Yaw Oppong, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Human Resource Management, University of Cape Coast School of Business, in his interaction discussed the challenges the pandemic poses to collective bargaining agreements especially post-COVID-19 and call on labour unions to start discussing the issues.
He advised employers to follow redundancy procedures and negotiations and advised that redundancy reason as provided by the law is critical. He cautioned employers should not treat employees as victims of the pandemic that should be laid off at the will of the employers without following the redundancy process.