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How HR Should Handle Coronavirus Concerns

Posted by Guest Post on May 21, 2020 10:26:14 AM

hr and coronavirus

The novel Coronavirus pandemic has everyone on edge.

Millions of small, medium, and large scale organizations around the world are partially or completely closed. Many are recording 100% revenue loss.  

Amidst this unprecedented situation, it is important that HR leaders rise to the occasion and respond to prevailing Coronavirus concerns.

Here in this post, we will shed light on how HR should handle Coronavirus concerns.

Equip Employees with the Right Information

Whether you have employees working from home or there are plans to get them back to work in the midst of the ongoing pandemic or in the near future, make sure to educate your workforce on what they can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 to themselves or others.

Yes, it’s a crisis situation, but it’s not entirely uncontrollable. Employees want to hear it from their mentors, supervisors, and HR managers. Communicating the right information through established channels is the best way to quell the panic.

If and when employees return to work, the HR department needs to educate everyone about:

  • The company’s COVID-19 response plan
  • Workplace controls introduced to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
  • Precautions that all those physically present in the workplace need to take to keep each-other safe

Always rely on trusted sources such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization) for the latest information on COVID-19. For instance, encourage frequent hand washing, social distancing, and use of masks and alcohol-based hand sanitizers among the employees, especially when they step out of their homes.

Flexible Work from Home (WFH) Policies

If WFH is an option for your organization, consider preparing a WFH policy as soon as possible (if you haven’t already). It can be hectic for employees at all levels within an organization to continue working to their full capacity unless there’s a well-defined HR policy in place.

Be considerate of the fact that many of your employees may need to support their children (since schools and daycare centers are closed), elderly, and sick family members at home during the pandemic.

For instance, it may not be possible for each employee to attend a video-conference call or respond to an email right away. So, you may need to decide on a time window when teams can collaborate without assuming each member to be available during the work shift.

Update Your Sick Leave (SL) and Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy

Since the pandemic has thrown us all out of gear, organizations must consider tweaking SL and PTO policies.

Employers are understandably worried about the business impact of the ongoing pandemic, but when possible, they should consider implementing flexible SL/PTO policies that are consistent with federal and local guidelines and laws.

During the pandemic, adopting an inflexible sick leave policy in order to keep workers coming to the workplace is a bad idea.

Not only do employers and the HR leaders have a duty to protect employees against well-known hazards in the place but an inflexible SL/PTO policy can also pressure sick workers (including those who are COVID-19 positive) to come to work. If you must ask workers to return to work, you can consider having them tested with rapid COVID-19 detection kits to make sure the workplace is safe for everyone.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some of your employees:

  • Maybe sick
  • Maybe caring for sick family members at home
  • May have at-risk family members
  • May need to care for the children at home
  • Maybe in quarantine after coming on contact with an infected

Many organizations have already begun taking steps in this direction. Walmart, for instance, is offering 14-day paid sick leave to its workers if they are sick (or quarantined) due to COVID-19; Microsoft is offering 12-weeks of paid parental leave to employees to help them cope with school disruptions.

Show that You Care

Medium and large-scale organizations are taking various steps to help their employees through the pandemic. Your organization, too, can take some steps to show that you care. Even a tiny bit of help is appreciated during a crisis situation. It remains etched in the memory for a long time.

For instance, Facebook is helping employees pay incremental expenses through bonuses; Target has extended its employee benefits program by introducing family care benefits during the pandemic.

Not all organizations have the bandwidth to accommodate major policy changes in regards to employee benefits, but it is always possible. 

Many other organizations are helping their workers avail of pre-paid virtual healthcare advice.

Curb Employee Travel

Limit work-related employee travel as much as possible. Cancel or postpone work-related trips to countries or states that have been severely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, and other such events should also be reconsidered.

Employees who have recently traveled back from a COVID-19 hot spot should be asked to work from home or go on leave for a period of two weeks.

When You Return to Work

The timeline for returning to work is fluid, but many organizations, small and large, are considering returning to work as soon as federal and local governments allow them to continue operations.

Resuming work in post-COVID-19 workplaces will require proper planning on how to keep everyone safe in the workplace.

For instance, it may not be possible to have all employees work in the same shift; seating arrangements may need to be altered to maintain social distancing or you may even need to consider installing physical barriers between the desks; shared facilities such as common rooms, canteens, etc. may continue to remain shut; necessary provisions of face masks, soap, and water, alcohol-based hand rubs, clean towels, tissues, temperature checking instruments, disinfectants, etc. would have to be made.

This guest post was written by Leon Reingold and may not be copied or published without PeopleGuru's express written permission. Leon is the Editor-in-Chief at, a nationwide supplier of drug and alcohol testing products online.

Topics: Employee Rights, Disaster Plan, Workforce Management, HR

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