3 Ways HR Can Support Employees During Coronavirus
The Coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed how we live and do business, and it comes as no surprise that it’s subsequently changing HR’s relationship with employees.
Remote working has been a massive transition for staff, and for many, this transition hasn’t been an easy one.
Those in the retail, dining, and other essential roles – who don’t have the option of working from home – have also had to compromise and adjust under the circumstances.
With that in mind, we’re highlighting 3 ways that HR can support employees during this time.
1. Support Wellbeing
Employees are trying to adjust to the various set of circumstances that the coronavirus has brought on. This includes getting used to life under lockdown, working from home with kids, or potentially being an essential worker in regular contact with the public.
All of this on top of worrying about their own health and the health of their loved ones makes managing this new way of living a bit tricky, which is why supporting employees with their mental and emotional well-being has never been more important.
Workers are often experiencing fear and anxiety in dealing with the present pandemic, and companies should offer ways to help employees work through it.
Create opportunities to connect
For many of us, co-workers are the main source of our daily human interactions. However, with the current disruption of our regular routines, we’re left with finding new ways to connect with colleagues we no longer see as often.
To provide social engagement where they can, some companies are encouraging friendly competition and allowing room for virtual team trivia games, for example. Others are redefining the morning coffee break and using Skype and Zoom to have catch-ups.
Whatever the case may be, these small opportunities make a big impact and have a huge part to play in keeping employee’s spirits up.
Managing employee mental health during the coronavirus outbreak can be difficult.
Without regular access to therapists, counsellors, co-workers or even gyms, many people may not know where to turn to reduce anxiety.
In this situation, the best thing HR can do is to become acquainted with the various resources available and advertise them clearly for staff – whether that’s by highlighting your organisation’s employee support resources or by linking to external mental health services, including:
Alternatively, if employees feel suicidal or in danger of harm, HR should advise them to urgently contact:
- Samaritans Emergency Appeal
- Their local GP
Ease up on the rules
We are not in a situation where a typical working day is ‘business as usual’ for remote workers or essential workers.
HR needs to acknowledge the psychological impact that being in lockdown and isolated at home has on employees.
The behaviours, needs, and attitudes surrounding work are changing and HR must do their best to be sympathetic.
This doesn’t mean staff should get a pass on doing their job well; it means there should be an understanding that everyone is living a ‘new normal’ that will take some getting used to, and for some employees that may mean being less consistent in their work than usual.
It’s crucial that HR knows how and what to communicate to employees about the various policies, requirements, and expectations surrounding coronavirus and the workplace.
As the situation is rapidly changing, communication to employees should be frequent and comprehensive so that employees aren’t left in the dark.
A few ways HR can keep their people in the loop:
Have an internal communication plan
Putting a process in place for reaching employees through a combination of emails and (ideally virtual) meetings should be a priority.
The plan should include simple templates for providing continual business updates and collecting feedback from employees on a weekly to bi-weekly basis as the situation continues.
State the facts as they come
Make sure that employees have access to timely and accurate information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and various government organisations.
You should also provide clear instructions about what employees should do if they suspect that they have fallen ill due to coronavirus. While offering this information may seem straightforward, it’s vital that reminders are put in place so that people continue stay safe.
Minimise the fear
HR should outline the preventative actions the company is taking on behalf of its employees, like facilitating remote working or running shortened work hours, for instance.
COVID-19 is leaving many people feeling uncertain and uprooted from their typical daily lives, and therefore it’s necessary for HR to be transparent about how an organisation is looking after their employees across departments.
In doing so, HR can provide a sense of calm amongst the chaos, which is perhaps the best thing that can be offered to staff right now.
3. Invest in Employee Development
When employees start returning to life after lockdown, employers will have had to reassess critical jobs, expand definitions of responsibilities, and explore new limits for key tasks.
With such a fundamental shifting of jobs and the way they’re laid out, there will no doubt be career opportunities ready and available when the economy bounces back.
There will be a substantial need for people who can work quickly and stay motivated as organisations try to get back normal, and so HR should act now in setting up employee development opportunities where possible.
Career advancement opportunities will look different to every employee, but a few examples which can be done virtually include:
- Career counselling and mentoring
- Online learning and development programs
- Online qualifications and courses related to their job role (or desired job role)
No one is certain about how long the coronavirus restrictions will last, but HR can stay ahead of the curve by ensuring that employees’ development continues to be a priority.
With all of the remaining uncertainty, it’s in HR’s best interest to step up and ensure that the right methods are in place to support employees during this difficult time.
And for that, we can’t thank them enough!
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