Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Employer-Employee Relationship

The pandemic has cast a cloud of discomfort over the entire world for over a year now, and according to experts, this cloud isn’t going to lift in a hurry. While countries around the globe come to terms with ‘the new normal’, the Indian economy has taken a huge hit. Even though the COVID-19 cases are decreasing, it feels like there is no end in sight. While the workforce relentlessly tries to salvage the economy, employers face innumerable challenges, which has caused a significant strain on employee relationship.

Making it cost-effective: When budgets are tighter than ever before, it is a complex dance between basic needs and wants for employers. Companies have had to make severe cuts in their monthly expenditures to not go into losses. Salaries have been reduced considerably. Extra perks and privileges like paid leaves have been suspended until further notice. With less business coming in, it is hard to stay afloat. Renting office space has become a substantial investment that only a few companies can afford to sustain even when there is a low influx of money.

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Downsizing: With budget cuts comes the unfortunate reduction of personnel. Employers have the unsavory job of reducing staff to only the bare minimum to meet their budgetary requirements. In this work environment, if you snooze, you lose. These lay-offs have been massive during the past year and a half, resulting in mass unemployment of working professionals.

Working remotely: Since COVID-19’s strict social distancing and other safety measures have been put in place, companies were forced to have their employees work from home. It has taken a toll on the work environment, as there were no set ways to regulate or supervise a Work-From-Home scenario. While Working from home proved beneficial for employees, saving on travel time and spending that time with family has impacted productivity and added pressure to employers to extract results.

Government orders and obligations: Add to the money concerns of every company struggling in the pandemic; employers were also given directives from the government that they were not allowed to decrease salaries or terminate employees in private or public companies due to the pandemic. This caused significant strain on companies, so the Supreme Court passed an interim order stating that commercial and industrial companies could enter into previously negotiated terms of agreement with their employees, with revised salaries in the wake of the lockdown. 

Longer work days: Since travel time had significantly reduced, employers found it helpful to increase work hours, which employees may not have favourably received. Given that they are working from home, they have more personal hours than before and, therefore, can easily commit to more work from the comfort of their own home. Several state governments ruled that the maximum work hours per day during the lockdown period would span from 8 to 12, and the maximum per week would be 48 to 72.

General loss of morale: With more extended workdays (despite working from home), reduced salaries, COVID-19 deaths on the rise, and the scramble for vaccinations, employees have struggled to keep a happy face. Despite unsatisfactory work conditions and salary cuts, employees have had no choice but to hold onto their jobs. This has, of course, harmed the employer-employee dynamic as well as general productivity and morale.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has left a deep dent in public healthcare and the global economy. Businesses have gone under, jobs have been terminated, and families have suffered unimaginable losses. Once companies can regulate the ‘new normal’ work culture and get their stride, the economy will likely be on the rebound, and businesses will soon be able to make a favorable comeback.

Reference: From “Challenges in Employer-Employee Relations Amid The Pandemic” | Namita Chadha, People Matters |

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