Daiga Priede-Kazaka: Taking care of employees is more important now than ever before


Daiga Priede-Kazaka: Taking care of employees is more important now than ever before

The war unleashed by Russia in Ukraine affects each of us. It also affects the microclimate in companies and increases uncertainty in business. The consequences in the labor market will not be long in coming. In my opinion, in order to better cope with this situation, the following considerations should be taken into account.

Caring for employees is more important than ever before

We may not quite realize how much of a change the Covid-19 crisis has made to the working environment. It has taught us not to be afraid of working remotely, although some people will enjoy working in an office anyway. Eurostat data shows that before the pandemic, only about 5% of workers had the experience of remote work, i.e. those who worked remotely.  It would be fair to say that this style of work was not typical for Latvia.

Every “office worker” (and this is about a third of all employees) now learned in practice all the advantages and disadvantages of working from home. For example, sometimes it is nice to have a kitchen at your disposal a few steps from the workplace, but this cannot be more important than lively, daily conversations with colleagues and customers.

This dual nature of remote work is a prime example of how vital well-being is to a company or organization. It should cover all areas: the physical working environment, health, social and psycho-emotional environment and, of course, wages. For example, practical technical support for remote work or adaptation of the office to partially remote work, reorganization of internal processes to make work from home generally possible. The emphasis of well-being is increasingly shifting towards human health, both physical and emotional.

I would recommend paying increased attention to emotional well-being, preventing the risks of burnout, inventing measures aimed to reduce internal anxiety of employees. We need to learn to work in the conditions when bombs fall, and innocent people die only a thousand kilometers from here. It’s very difficult. Although the war is far away, people are nervous about their works and whether everything will be as predictable as before. These fears should be allayed.

Second, this year we may see changes in the labor market in terms of labor force availability and pay trends.

One of the most significant problems in the field of personnel management in recent years is the shortage of personnel. Those who can and want to work are already working, and there is no one else. We can see it from the statistics. According to the Central Statistical Bureau, the unemployment rate registered in Riga and the Riga region at the end of February does not exceed 4.8%, in Zemgale – 6.8%, and in Vidzeme and Kurzeme is slightly higher than 7%.

In addition, during the Covid-19 outbreak, people, including skilled professionals, were generally less likely to change jobs and were satisfied with the absence of prolonged downtime and regular wages. The only exception was when a better position and more balanced working conditions were offered.

This year, the situation is beginning to change. First, as the cost of living rises, wages become important again and can be an incentive to change jobs. Secondly, after April 1, people who decided to “sit out” the winter in the hope that in the spring the strict requirements for Certificates for Covid-19 will be softened, will begin to actively return to the labor market. That moment has already come, but instead of Covid-19 along came the war in Ukraine.

We are already seeing the first consequences for the labor market. People who worked in companies that had business relations with Russia, Ukraine or Belarus have to look for a new job. Both the war itself and the sanctions imposed on the aggressor country, Russia, have significantly increased business uncertainty, this allows us to predict that wage growth will no longer be the same as in the previous few years.

In addition, a company that plans to employ refugees from Ukraine will need to think about some changes in internal procedures. By supporting these people, Latvia issues humanitarian visas and has simplified the requirements for employment, for example, knowledge of the Latvian language is not required. Therefore, HR professionals may have to puzzle over how to familiarize the applicant with all the necessary instructions, job descriptions and other necessary information.

Third, Covid-19 hasn’t gone away and won’t go away either.

The war in Ukraine has almost completely diverted our attention from Covid-19. The good news is that the incidence of the disease is declining, and on 1 April restrictions against the virus were once again significantly eased. There are many places we can walk around without masks, be free to attend events and not worry about the expiration of the Covid-19 certificate.

But all this does not mean that the contagious infectious disease has disappeared. It’s not that. That is why it is worth considering the latest changes in the regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers, which allow each employer to decide on safety measures (masks, tests, certificates) on his own at workplaces if necessary.

In my opinion, keeping in mind the experience of past years, it is worth thinking carefully about how stringent the requirements for Covid-19 certificates should be in the future. Which occupational groups are at increased risk of infection or spread of infection? 98% of Civinity employees have been vaccinated or have been ill, but we will decide in which objects to leave the requirement of certificate. For example, it is clear that people who clean health and education facilities cannot do without it. We think that we will have to work hard with our clients to understand how to prepare for the autumn in a more epidemiologically safe way.  so that the new outbreak of Covid-19 does not take us by surprise.

All of the above can be formulated in one phrase – we will take care that employees feel safe. Then it will be easier for all of us to survive this period of uncertainty and insecurity.