By Professor Clare Kelliher, Professor of Work and Organisation

This article was originally published on

The experiences of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic: business disruption, furloughed employees and extended, enforced working from home, have changed the employment relationship.

Our research at Cranfield School of Management during the pandemic found that the physical distancing of working from home sometimes led to psychological distancing, too.

Maintaining the connection became harder for employers, since the ever-present opportunity to reinforce the brand and culture by being together in the workplace was lost. In addition, as has long been common practice, people who work remotely often exercise more control over their working time than when in the workplace, choosing start, finishing and break times, and many employees will want to retain some of this flexibility back in the workplace.

As we move to a post-pandemic world, the employment relationship is being shaped by employees reconsidering what they want from work and how it fits with their future life plans, and also by employers assessing what they have learned through their experiences in the pandemic about how to run their organisation.

For example, research currently underway at Cranfield is looking at what employers have learned from using the flexible (part-time) furlough scheme and whether their views about part-time working have altered as a result.

HR professionals need to be proactive and reassess the benefits package on offer. Those who now have a greater understanding of their employees’ lives will be able to be more responsive to their needs.

A positive experience from the pandemic has been that many employers gained greater insight into their employees’ lives through seeing them at home on videos calls and by having to accommodate new demands in employees non-work lives, for example, care or home schooling.

Greater opportunities for personalisation and flexible working will be important for those who have now experienced it and allowing employees to exercise discretion at work is known to increase commitment and benefit wellbeing.

Where it is difficult to recruit and retain staff, higher salaries may be a short-term solution, but in the longer-term the whole benefits package needs to be considered, including loyalty-based incentives that work with personal circumstances and aspirations. Relationship-building by line managers in particular will be needed to sustain a committed and productive workforce.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield has been a world leader in management education and research for over 50 years, helping individuals and organisations learn and succeed by transforming knowledge into action. We are dedicated to creating responsible management thinking, improving business performance and inspiring the next generation of business leaders. We work to change the lives of our students and executives by encouraging innovation and creative thinking, as well as the drive to succeed and make a real impact on their organisations.

Organisations as diverse as Jaguar Land Rover, BAE Systems, Royal Dutch Shell, L’Oréal, UNICEF and the African Development Bank have benefited from our work, which ranges from management research projects, through staff talent management development on our MBA courses, to customised executive programmes.

Cranfield is one of an elite group of Schools worldwide to hold the triple accreditation of: AACSB International (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) and AMBA (the Association of MBAs).

We are in the Top 10 International Business Schools in the Forbes’ ranking.

Our open and customised executive education programmes are ranked in the top five in the UK, according to the latest Financial Times survey, and in the top ten in the world for international reach. Over 10,000 people come to Cranfield each year to benefit from our executive and professional development programmes.