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Reflections from an HR perspective

Week 2 of lockdown has commenced here in South Africa. For those of us in Gauteng, the day dawned grey and cold after some autumnal overnight rain. I am feeling quite exhausted to be honest. We have undergone our ISO certification renewal audit, all online through video conferencing and hours-long Microsoft Teams calls. I feel drained from the total focus needed for those calls. Unlike in-person engagements where we can pick up on physical cues and drift in and out of group conversations quite easily, online communication requires near-constant concentration for extended periods of time.

I have also realised just how much of the HR role has been based on unplanned and naturally occurring people engagement – colleagues popping past to say hi and staying for a chat about a personal situation; someone requesting ten minutes of your time for an impromptu counselling session that turns into an hour; overhearing someone asking for something and intervening with the answer and then engaging in small talk. So much of our time is spent on numerous variations of these encounters with our co-workers, and they are all important to creating a culture of People First.

Transposing this to an online encounter over the last week has required some creativity from my part, especially while also managing the demands of my own toddler at home who has just discovered he can reach door handles now. Teams calls are great for catching up with everyone in the company, which we host twice-daily for whoever can join in. But having more than 4 people on the call requires some impressive refereeing skills to ensure each person is heard and everyone has a chance to speak up. It falls on the HR team’s shoulders to ensure every person in the company is checked-in with regularly – either by one of us or by reminding their Managers or PMs.

We all made it through Week 1 relatively unscathed, but I think the true tests are still to come. The novelty of lockdown is wearing thin fast, and the reality that there are still another 13 days of this, at minimum, is bound to tip a few people over the edge. This is when HR steps up the engagement – I found this image just as lockdown started and have shared it throughout my company as well as my friends and family. And I reach out too when I need to – even HR isn’t a red heart all the time!

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