It is reported that the economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is worse than that of the Great Recession in 2008 and that the world faces the worst recession since the Great Depression (Chan, 2020). A number of people in many parts of the world have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is particularly high in the United States and European countries such as the UK and France (Alderman & Abdul, 2020). It may be that the economic recession has significantly affected and changed the way business organizations are run and their employees are managed.
New norms or guidelines of social life have appeared during the pandemic. Social distancing and staying home among other norms have caused people to isolate themselves from others and changed their behavior. In response to those new norms, an increasing number of companies have introduced teleworking and other measure such as staggered commuting and a four-day workweek. Employees at those companies are allowed to work from home and attend videoconference meetings. Companies have introduced or expanded flextime work schedules to promote teleworking.
The coronavirus pandemic has significantly had an economic and social impact on business organizations in a very short period of time. It is expected that organizations have been changed significantly in a short period of time since the outset of the pandemic. The pandemic may have affected or is currently affecting management practices and employees' engagement with their work and organizations. Against the backdrop of this ongoing situation involving the COVID-19 pandemic, I focus on high performance work practices among other practices and examine the impact of such a pandemic on those practices and the resulting collective employee engagements in Japan, Singapore, and Australia.
Pfeffer (1998) and other researchers refer to the following practices as high performance work practices; a job security policy, extensive training, self-managed teams, job rotation, egalitarian teamwork practices, quality control activities, and other practices used by high-performing companies. Those high performance work practices are also called high commitment work practices (HCWPs) as they can improve the extent to which employees are committed to, engaged with, or passionate about their work--which ultimately leads to improvement in employee retention, productivity, product quality, profits, and other performance outcomes.
Meanwhile, Peretz, Fried, and Levi (2017) and other researchers have regarded teleworking, a flextime work schedule, and other flexible work arrangements (FWAs) as high performance work practices. I discuss those high performance work practices, namely, HCWPs and FWAs, in this research.
In order to test hypotheses, I collected data through the online system of a research company in December 2020. I collected data from Japan, Singapore, and Australia. The economies of those three counties were not hit as hard by the pandemic as other nations such as the US and European countries when I started conducting the current survey. I thought that it was possible to collect much data from Japanese, Singaporean, and Australian employees still employed at that time. Respondents were managerial employees as I thought they were more knowledgeable about management and organizations than non-managerial employees. I made the English and Japanese versions of questionnaire. Japanese respondents used the Japanese version of questionnaire. One-hundred two Japanese managers, 114 Singaporean managers, and 110 Australian managers responded to the survey questionnaire. A total of 326 managers responded to the questionnaire.
All items were evaluated on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 "strongly disagree" to 5 "strongly agree." The questionnaire asked respondents to evaluate the mediator variable (HCWPs and FWAs), the dependent variable (collective employee engagement) and the moderator variable(the cultural dimension of collectivism versus individualism) that existed in December 2020, when survey was conducted (that is to say, after the outbreak of the pandemic) , and that had existed (or might still exist) before the end of 2019 (that is to say, before the outbreak of the pandemic). The pandemic is a dichotomous variable. The era of pre-coronavirus (before the pandemic) was coded as the value of one and the era of post-coronavirus (after the pandemic) was coded as the value of zero. A sample questionnaire item of HCWPs is" Job security of employees (the probability that they will keep their job) is guaranteed." A sample questionnaire item of FWAs is "Teleworking: Employees work from home for some or all of the working week by connecting to the workplace on a home computer." A sample question of collective employee engagement is "Employees feel proud to be part of the company." A sample question of collectivism versus individualism is "People tend to make decisions in the best interest of the group rather than for themselves."