The question for employers is, what does coming out of COVID-19 look like? As we continue to hear the encouraging news of the flattening of the curve and with some States of Australia already relaxing restrictions… employers need to address this important question.

Many businesses in the region have been impacted to varying degrees, for some businesses it’s been business as usual or even a spike of activity – think of our agribusiness and consumer goods companies – they will return to business as usual as the pandemonium of stockpiling supplies and demand for DIY products eases. The majority have been negatively impacted in one way or another and it will be a long road to recovery for most.

Harvest HR Director Maree Herath states “The top three factors for business will be a readdressing strategy, the implications on the workforce and now truly embracing flexibility in working arrangements.”

  1. Strategy

Whether we like it or not the landscape has changed. According to Roy Morgan a further 1.4 million Australians are out of work in the Wake of COVID-19 and a whopping 3.92 million are either unemployed or underemployed. (Note 1)  In many Australian homes one wage earner or both have been affected.

Further, economic growth according to the International Monetary Fund will be stunted, with 6.7% predicted as the fall to Australia’s GDP (the worst fall since the Great Depression). (Note 2)  Consumer spending will retract further and COVID-19 changed spending habits to the essential not the discretionary. Because of this, businesses that were in growth cycles earlier in the year now need to determine and forecast what the demand for their product or services will be moving forward? What now is our forecast and how does this flow onto the workforce? The eligibility for the Federal Government’s JobKeeper subsidy required a 30% reduction in revenue (created by COVID). Businesses could safely assume that this is a realistic top line impact. The logical implication is a reduced workforce to deliver to these more conservative figures.


  1. The Return

There are some bright sides. Two things we can thank COVID-19 for. First our increased awareness of personal hygiene and protecting ourselves and others. Secondly, we gained an awareness that, to get through the crisis required self-care, resilience and mindfulness. We learnt to flow through the kaleidoscope of emotions resulting from our new way of living and working. Employers are now in a very good space with regards to Work Health and Safety function with Health and Wellbeing clearly on the agenda.

Herath states “The challenge for many organisations is who comes back and when? Also who doesn’t return and what positions are made redundant?” Standing down workers happened very quickly – as it needed to but how an organisation brings back its workers is thwart with a real and present danger. “Many organisations will implement an incremental return of its workforce and these decisions must be fair and equitable for all employees. One wrong move and an organisation could find themselves in the Fair Work Commission with a discrimination, a general protections or unfair dismissal claim.” Herath recommends gaining specific advice early. It could save a lot of future headaches!


  1. Flexibility

The Corona Virus caused many employers to take the big leap of faith on home and remote working. Could it be done? Were employees as efficient and productive at home as they are in the workplace. The answer, for the majority, was an unequivocal “YES”.

Many workplaces already had the technology and connectivity for remote working, but could businesses still achieve the collaboration, teamwork and communication amidst home working. Again, using a host of platforms such as Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and Skype, businesses have shown themselves capable of keeping the sense of team amidst the crisis.

While some parents will bare the scars of homeschooling and having little ones at home, routines were established and parents have for the most part, balanced work and homelife.

“COVID-19 has presented an exciting opportunity where work and life can truly intertwine. I believe many employers will embrace more flexible working arrangements post this crisis.” Herath states.

Harvest HR & People Solutions, host of the Geelong HR Roundtable will host the Roundtable in webinar format on May 13 “A Think Tank on HR Transformation” for savvy managers and HR practitioners to learn what our employers did during the crisis and how we plan to come out of it.

For further information on how to manage your people as you return from COVID-19 contact Maree Herath on 1300 363 128.


Note 1. Roy Morgan

Note 2. The Guardian

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