Refocusing HR help desks amid Covid-19

Anjali Pendlebury Green, Expert in HR Outsourcing and HR Transformation, Capgemini

HR leader, confident female business leaderThe Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a myriad of changes and has altered the way we carry out our daily roles. One aspect of this is the vast amount of people shifting from working in offices to now working from home.

As a result, the function of the Human Resource helpdesk must fundamentally change to keep pace with new workforce demands.

With some figures predicting that this shift will be a permanent fixture for up to 30% of the working population going forward, HR desks have experienced an abundance of new challenges and opportunities which may also need to be considered as long-lasting changes.

Working through this time has provided us with invaluable insights into which work issues are currently top-of-mind for our client teams. By using our responsibility and privileged position of supporting others, we can gather intel from emerging concerns and issues to learn how to better design and adapt our HR helpdesks to become well-structured employee-centric operations.

Based on the insights we have; we have drawn out three essential lessons that HR help desks can utilise during the Covid-19 period and beyond. HR departments can ask the following questions:

Are we offering clear, accessible help?

Unfortunately, employee queries and concerns are on the rise. This has been due to physically and mentally adjusting to the ‘new normal’ that working from home brings, including juggling home-life responsibilities such as looking after family members, all while continuing to carry out their daily jobs at usual pace.

We can assist with this transition by having clear instructions which point to where employees can reach out for support, if needed. Providing a clear and singular point of contact for HR helpdesks is essential to eliminate confusion for employees seeking guidance. Alongside this ramping up availability and responsiveness, in line with demand, will ensure that employees feel their needs and wellbeing are being prioritised.

Have HR helpdesks witnessed a change in behavior? How are these changes being addressed?

We have witnessed changes in employee behavior because of the uncertainty Covid-19 has brought.  As the workplace has changed, being able to recognise the differences in employee behaviour works in our favour and allows us to adapt to better assist employees with these newfound adjustments.

These changes include a rise in anxieties surrounding job roles and onboarding processes, which is understandable during times of uncertainty. We have also seen a greater focus from employees on what benefits and healthcare options are available from employers. By keeping information readily available on these topics, employees can easily access the help they require to feel supported.

Questions around holiday entitlement and business interruptions have also increased with employees wanting clarification on issues such as transfers and career advancements considering the current environment. Changes to the daily routine, such as home-schooling and the discussion of mandatory holidays being taken have provided an opportunity for clear HR guidance on these topics.

During the initial lockdown period there was a spike in requests for employment certificates which were a necessity for personnel who needed to travel at that time. Providing a seamless pathway for employees to find these materials creates a more efficient way of assisting with these new found help-points.

Through recognising these changes in behaviour and adapting – HR helpdesks can offer more comprehensive support to their client groups during this difficult time – while laying a sound foundation for the future. As HR leaders, we should be fully aware of how these behaviour shifts are affecting our teams and streamlining operations can create reassurance and guidance – particularly on issues such as remote onboarding.

Are we offering an employee-centric, yet human, HR helpdesk?

Previous HR models favoured a “less voice, more self-service” structure – however, our teams have observed a steep decline in this method. Instead, the emerging trend shows that people prefer human contact when they contact their workspaces’ HR channels.

Teams are now more inclined call up our desks and explain their issues to an actual person because of the human element. As we know longer experience the usual forms of human contact we were used to in life before the pandemic – day-to-day chatter about the weather and asking how people are, is more appreciated.

While retaining digital services will continue to be important, the overall focus is likely to shift to providing the right balance of people and machine, and so HR helpdesks will become more supportive and immersive points for employees.

Final viewpoints

While the changes brought on by Covid-19 are immense, the shift on working patterns and daily interactions has inevitably changed how the HR helpdesk functions. The questions outlined above offer a starting point to help with adopting and adjusting to the new needs of employees. By creating centralised and accessible helpdesks, as well as addressing changes in behaviour and utilising more of a human element within our work – we can use what we have seen from the pandemic as a lesson to better support the client teams we work with.

Anjali Pendlebury-GreenAbout the author

Anjali Pendlebury-Green, Expert in HR Transformation

I am an expert in the field of HR Outsourcing and HR Transformation, specializing in delivering HR solutions that leverage global outsourcing platforms, leading edge technology, stack offers and process standardization. I have led award-winning HRO teams for large multinational companies with a special focus on the manufacturing sector.


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