2020 HKIHRM Topical Study – Survey on HR Challenges in the New Normal
By the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management
  • The topical study takes an in-depth look at flexible working arrangements and the challenges they pose.

  • It brings to light how HR professionals are manoeuvring the new normal by fortifying workforce planning.


Conducted from July to August 2020, the HKIHRM’s topical study HR Challenges in the New Normal interviewed a total of 133 Institute members and other HR professionals, whose completed questionnaires were factored into the analyses. The survey’s objectives are to understand current practices and challenges of flexible working arrangements; to explore workforce planning post-COVID-19; to understand how organisations are rebuilding staff morale and relationships; and to find out how HR practitioners are coping with the changing work environment.

Organisational readiness

In stark comparison with Q1 and Q2 of 2020 when COVID-19 erupted, 91% of the respondents said they were well prepared or quite well prepared in tackling the problems induced by the outbreaks in July/August 2020. This showcased workforce resilience in the face of the public health crisis.

Flexible working arrangements

COVID-19 triggered the popularisation of flexible working arrangements, with 95% of most of the respondents saying they had arrangements put in place in July/August 2020 amid the third wave of outbreak. This documented a significant increase compared with pre-COVID times. To cope with the challenges presented by COVID-19, the top measures introduced by the majority of the respondents were working from home (81%), flexible working hours (75%), and rotating periods of office and home working/split teams (60%) respectively.

Working from home

Among the responding companies with work from home arrangements, the maximum proportion of their workforce working from home amid the outbreaks recorded an average of 60%. 33% of them stated that more than 80% of their staff worked from home at the peak of outbreaks.

Although the measure of working from home has successfully mitigated the risk of exposure to COVID-19, it has had a negative impact on workforce productivity. More than half of the responding companies with staff working from home admitted that their productivity has taken a turn for the worse, thanks to working from home arrangements.

How could we mitigate challenges brought about by remote teams? For the responding companies with workforce working from home, the top three measures to surmount these challenges were equipping employees with suitable tools and technology (66%), ensuring accessibility of shared information (64%), and organising meetings/checkins regularly (56%) respectively.

Staff morale

Among the responding companies, 40% admitted that staff morale has deteriorated after the onset of COVID-19. A mere 16% said staff morale has gotten better.

Challenges and priorities post-COVID-19

To brace for upcoming challenges, reviewing remote/flexible work arrangement (45%), reskilling/ upskilling employees on new ways of working (30%), and staff morale (30%) topped the priority lists of responding companies for the next 12 months.

We can all agree that change is the buzzword under the influence of COVID-19. For responding companies, critical workforce competencies that are change-oriented proved most important in the near term, with change management (32%), adaptability/flexibility (30%), and crisis management (25%) emerging as the top three.


According to responding companies, the top 3 critical competencies for HR professionals in the next 12 months were change management (37%), crisis management (34%), and adaptability/flexibility (23%). These were aligned with the top 3 critical competencies for the general workforce, suggesting that going forward, the HR function can lead their staff in navigating the new normal by boosting their own abilities to confront change and turn crisis into an opportunity to better the workplace.

2020 HKIHRM Topical Study –
Survey on HR Challenges in the
New Normal
PR 11 January, 2022