Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Organizational Cultures

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 7
Words: 1943
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: Master

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has been characterized by restrictions on movement, lockdowns, closure of borders, and the adoption of social distancing policies by governments, worldwide. The adoption of these measures has limited operating hours for businesses and disrupted supply chain activities for companies and industries globally (Meegaswatta, 2021). Governments developed and coordinated the adoption of these measures to curb the spread of the corona virus, which was the main cause of the pandemic, and minimize the rate of infection and human death toll caused by its spread (Yoon et al., 2021). Businesses adjusted to these new changes by making internal alterations to their systems, processes, and procedures to align with the unpredictability of their operating environments (Ertel, 2021). These changes have affected the organisational structures and job designs of companies worldwide and employees have been influenced in the process. The most visible changes have emerged in how they live and work.

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This essay analyses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the structure and job designs of companies in the manufacturing industry, using Apple, as a case study. It is selected for use in the present study because it is one of the largest technology firms in the manufacturing industry (Schiffer, 2021; Zetlin, 2021). The analysis is done using Fox’s (1974) framework of unitarist and pluralist perspectives on employee relations. The unitarist approach advocates for the promotion of shared interests in an organization, while the pluralist approach assumes that organizations are made up of different groups of employees who work individually to promote their legitimate interests. Overall, this essay demonstrates that the on-going pandemic fulfils both unitaristic and pluralistic objectives on employees’ lives. Enhanced collaboration across employee groups is highlighted, as a positive unitaristic contribution of the pandemic on employees’ lives, while increased isolation and employee surveillance are described as negative pluralistic effects on employee lives.

Positive Pluralistic Effects of Pandemic on Employee Lives

The pluralistic view of human resource management organises employee relations on the assumption that they will work in independent units with divergent needs, goals, and requirements (Kaufman et al., 2021). This approach to management welcomes conflict as it is considered a healthy part of employee interactions. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive effect on organisations, such as Apple with pluralistic goals, because it operates different divisions of employees working remotely in different parts of the world (Schiffer, 2021; Zetlin, 2021). The pandemic has had a positive effect on the achievement of the firm’s pluralistic goals through enhanced collaboration of employee groups, as described below.

Enhanced Collaboration

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary for companies to use digital communication tools to coordinate and facilitate communications across various groups of employees working divisions remotely (Charoensukmongkol and Phungsoonthorn, 2020). The increased use of virtual communication tools, such as Skype and Zoom, to facilitate communications among employees in this pandemic period is an example of how companies have been forced to adjust to movement restrictions and social distancing rules (Switzer, Wang and Hirschvogel, 2020). This trend has led to the reorganisation of the structure and job designs of Apple employees, most of who have been reassigned to work in divisions they would not have contemplated working, while others have been forced to take leaves (Schiffer, 2021). Part of the measures taken has been to reposition the business to exploit emerging opportunities of business growth in light of changes in its operating environment.

This trend has improved coordination among groups of employees working remotely because work-from-home policies have made people discover that they do not have to meet physically to exchange ideas or work (Yoon et al., 2021). The adoption of virtual tools of communication to facilitate remote working has consequently made it possible for employees who would not have otherwise met physically to collaborate with one another and improve productivity (Yoon et al., 2021). In line with the pluralistic view of employee management, such a framework of interaction allows groups of employees to meet their goals, while collaborating with another to help them accomplish theirs as well.

Virtual communication tools are increasingly making it possible for employees to collaborate with other like-mined groups from other organisations or business divisions, thereby fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace (Kumar, 2021). This outcome has been made possible by the elimination of physical barriers to collaboration that would have otherwise prevented employee groups from meeting frequently or at all (Hughes, 2021). Synergy is enhanced through the adoption of virtual communication tools and this trend is expected to be permanently adopted in some organizations (Verma and Naveen, 2021).

Improved Flexibility

Groups of employees that work remotely need some flexibility in how they operate because they balance group and organisational interests at the same time. The COVID-19 pandemic has improved the flexibility of these groups in the accomplishment of their tasks by introducing more informality in how employees interact among groups (Kumar, 2021; Shoss et al., 2021). Restrictions on movement and border closures have forced apple’s CEO, to meet with some of its partners virtually and even migrate some of its supply chain processes online, thereby making large sections of its value chain processes redundant to the wave of change occurring in the business world (Shoss et al., 2021). These alterations to business processes have forced managers to having large groups of employees onsite as some of the activities that would have otherwise been completed in the office can be completed at home.

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Jobs and industries that supported the physical movement of workers and their stay at the office have naturally been negatively affected, but team collaboration has strengthened virtually as business divisions migrate their processes online to a future where the company’s employees may not need to work in the office at all (Shoss et al., 2021). This future is closer to reality than previously imagined because some of Apple’s competitors, such as Facebook that operate in similar workplace environments have already told their employees they could work remotely forever (Shoss et al., 2021). Apple is yet to make such an announcement, but groups of employees are enjoying the flexibility of working remotely, thereby promoting the firm’s pluralistic goals.

Negative Unitaristic Effects of Pandemic on Employee Lives

The unitarism view of employee relations emphasizes the importance of maximizing employees’ shared interests (Kaufman et al., 2021). This approach to HRM assumes that an organisation is one unit whose interests are protected by all its stakeholders (Kaufman et al., 2021). Therefore, managers and their employees are deemed to be working for the fulfilment of common goals (Kaufman et al., 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted this flow of objectives by limiting employee performance through increased isolation and enhanced remote surveillance as described below.

Increased Isolation

Restrictions on movement and unpredictable lockdowns have forced companies to develop policies that allow employees to work from home in compliance with restrictions on movement imposed by governments. This move has made groups of employees that would ordinarily work together in an office to become isolated (Amaral-Prado et al., 2020). It is no longer possible for them to meet face-to-face, thereby leading to the loss of human touch that they have always been used to enjoying through physical meetings in the pre-COVID world (Costantini et al., 2021). Increased isolation among employees is likely to have negative effects on workplace productivity because it heightens employee stress levels (Cotofan, 2021). Several studies have also indicated that the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on employees, especially because most of them are suffering from anxiety due to the possibility of job or income losses (Tušl et al., 2021; Hossain, 2021). Increased isolation due to restrictions on movement is the root cause of this problem.

Apple, through its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tim Cook, introduced a raft of changes at the facility that would see employees work from home two days out of three that they are supposed to be at work (Evans, 2021). This measure was introduced to reduce the exposure of employees to the virus when working at the company’s California headquarters. The implications of this policy change have been the adoption of a hybrid environment where employees can work both remotely and on-site and the reorganization of organisational structures to eliminate redundant positions (Zetlin, 2021). For example, changes in human resources are inevitable because employees will be working from home. Therefore, the need for rigorous supervision is eliminated in a work-from-home setup. Given that most employees were working on-site pre-pandemic times, the move to work from home has made them more isolated.

Remote Surveillance

The adoption of work-from-home policies by companies has been met with concerns regarding employee performance because there is no one to supervise employee at home (Hughes, 2021). At work, most employees worked in the same environment as their superiors; therefore, remedial action could be taken on those who failed to meet expectations because performance was visible to superiors. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace environment and forced companies to look for innovative ways of maintaining performance and complying with the relevant restrictions (Kumar, 2021; Shoss et al., 2021). Remote surveillance of employees have been adopted by companies to monitor their employees’ productivity and Apple is one of them (Hughes, 2021). This technology allows companies to monitor the activities of their employees by checking how many hours they are online, frequency of email exchanges among other indicators of employee online behaviours.

Surveying employees remotely is an affront to the accomplishment of unitarianism goals of an organisation because it creates an environment of distrust between employers and employees (Men, Qin and Jin, 2021). Particularly, it makes it possible for one to question the need for such surveillance if both groups are supposed to trust one another (Hughes, 2021). Furthermore, it raises questions about the infringement of employee privacy rights because monitoring communications without authorized access is an offense in law (Schiffer, 2021; Zetlin, 2021). However, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the temptation for managers or executives to monitor their employees, sometimes without detection. This development is detrimental to the achievement of the unitarism goals of an organisation (Hughes, 2021). Overall, the findings highlighted above show that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how people live and work with the most visible changes emerging in the reorganization of workplace tasks and organisational structures.

Conclusion

This essay has analysed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the structure and job designs of Apple, as an example of a dominant company in the manufacturing industry that has been affected by the pandemic. The effects of the pandemic on the company’s human resource plan has been completed using Fox’s (1974) framework of unitarist and pluralist perspectives on employee relations. The findings highlighted in the study has described ways in which the pandemic has affected both perspectives positively and negatively. Overall, this essay demonstrates that the on-going pandemic fulfils both unitaristic and pluralistic objectives through their impact on employees’ lives. Enhanced collaboration across employee groups is highlighted, as a positive unitaristic contribution of the pandemic on employees’ lives, while increased isolation and employee surveillance is highlighted as negative pluralistic effects on employee lives.

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Overall, this essay has demonstrated that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely impact the organisational structures and job designs of organisations in the manufacturing sector from the findings described above. From a unitaristic perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected employees by increasing the temptation for employers to survey them and made them more isolated than the pre-COVID times. Comparatively, based on a pluralistic view, the COVID-19 pandemic has positively impacted employees by increasing collaboration and flexibility of independent groups of employee working remotely. These insights were developed after analysing the impact of the pandemic on Apple’s organisational structure and job design.

Reference List

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