How HR Managers Should Respond to A Pandemic

The crisis brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just affecting the healthcare industry. Many businesses are beginning to suffer the implications created by the virus, such as strict travel bans and decreased in-person contact. 

Employers have had different responses to keep their companies afloat during this unique time, such as setting up an all-digital workspace, reducing work hours, freezing all hiring efforts, and even cutting jobs.

There is no way to predict how long it will take to flatten the curve or when the cure for the virus will be concocted. Companies have different takes on how to handle the crisis as they ease into a new normal. Some offices are changing to remote management, while others are looking to adopt a shifting employee schedule as the community quarantine is expected to be lifted soon. The new normal means trying their best to earn revenue and keep most of their staff satisfied while weathering through this storm. However, that doesn’t erase doubts and fears among employees about their job security and what the future holds.

Times like these are when employees severely need HR managers for support. Your recruitment agency in the Philippines should be on top of the following things during a pandemic:

1. Apply preventive measures

If your company can survive and do most of your tasks online, it’s better to release a memorandum urging all employees to work from their homes as soon as possible. This is the most responsible thing to do, as working from home not only promotes social distancing but also limits the exposure of your staff to a virus during their commute or any other business-related activity outside the office.

If this is not immediately possible, halt all work operations for a couple of days to meet with management about how to proceed. It is not safe for anyone in your building if you continue to let your employees work amidst a pandemic. Safety should come first. Once you’ve agreed on an action plan, thoroughly discuss the next steps with your company.

If employees still need to come to the office, such as to retrieve belongings, streamline all requests, and process it for them. If the items can be delivered to their homes or if one person can be in charge of gathering all items left in the office, do so to minimize contact and the spread of the disease. Manage the logistics thoroughly.

2. Plan for business continuity

Once the dust settles, and things are operating normally in your new work setup, the next thing your employees will have in their minds is job security. It will be common for them to ask questions about the company’s future, like if they can still keep their jobs and what the plans for continuity are.

As such, it’s your responsibility to get things sorted out and squash the fear in the minds of your staff. Check financial logs and see how you can strategically allocate your funds to run your business, earn revenue from projects, and pay your employees’ salaries on time.

If there’s any hiccup, be transparent and show your employees your action plans for fixing them. It’s important to be as open as possible and not speak in tongues—your employees want to feel reassured, not intimidated by business terms they don’t know. You can even check up on them and see if they have ideas on how you can solve this crisis together. Many heads are better than one.

3. Plan for health-related employee emergencies

Pandemics are unpredictable and hard to contain, so prepare for the possibility that one of your employees could contract the disease. Make sure to speak with your health care insurance provider to ensure if the policy covers them and to what extent. Inquiring about financial assistance would greatly benefit them and cause less stress for their loved ones and your company.

There’s also a matter of coordinating with department heads regarding who can cover the tasks of the decommissioned employee. Keeping tabs with your employees’ health should be of paramount concern. As it’s often said, your employees are your company’s best investment—take care of them.

4. Consider labor relations and agreements

Before you alter any work arrangements and policies, it’s one of the HR’s primary duties to check with the labor code if you are allowed to proceed.

For instance, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment encourages the implementation of temporary measures, such as reduced workdays, adjusted hours, and even work rotation for companies to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic—as long as they notify the regional office which has jurisdiction over the workplace.

5. Ensure the overall health of the employees

At times like this, everyone is grieving the loss of normalcy. Checking up on your employees’ health goes beyond whether or not they’ve been infected with the disease. It also means learning about the status of their mental health during this challenging time.

For a lot of people, working from home, being isolated from others, the pause of their routines and cancellation of plans, and the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty can get overwhelming. Some wouldn’t understand why they feel down or why their bodies feel so tired even when they’re just at home. You may even feel this way yourself.

Being an HR manager calls on your power to boost company morale. It may be the most difficult thing on your task list, but the rewards will be tremendous. Let your team know that they have someone to lean on or talk to during this crisis and that what they’re feeling is okay. Set up video chats and hear them out. You’ll be surprised at how this can make a world of difference for you and your team.

We’re All In This Together

Pandemics are tough, and as seen by COVID-19, it can take a toll on businesses globally. The best thing to do is learn from past outbreaks and work together to keep things stable. Regularly talking to your employees, making sure business plans and updates are disseminated efficiently, and trying your best to boost company morale are the best ways to manage a crisis.

Ron Cullimore