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COVID-19: How The HR Role Shifts During A Pandemic To Support Their Employees

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As we’re all having to adapt to new and necessary lifestyle changes during the COVID-19 quarantine, companies of all sizes also need to recalibrate their HR strategy to ensure the wellness of their employees. Apart from holding meetings over Zoom, employees need support in regards to more than just work. Big corporations, such as Walmart and Starbucks, have offered relief to employees by offering free therapy or getting rid of penalties. Other businesses are needing to revise their HR approach to support employees regardless of continuing to work or not.  

From stores either shortening working hours or closing completely, employees feel left in the dark. Already surrounding by coronavirus confusion, human resources role becomes redefined during a pandemic. As health becomes a priority, HR must prepare for any health-related emergencies and installing preventative measures. HR’s job is to keep employees physically and mentally healthy to resume regular work, as well as preparing business recovery measures, during this transitional time.

Ensuring Remote Work Wherever Possible

Flattening the curve is everyone’s priority for both health reasons and for accelerating recovery time.  With the discomfort surrounding the status of future work, quarantining will quicken the rate we can continue our regular schedules. Allowing employees to work from home will prevent spreading without completely shutting down business. Remote work requires a change in work policy that works for both the employees and the business. Following the CDC guidelines isn’t a suggestion, it’s a mandate. Encouraging workers, especially when experiencing any level and range of illness, to check their symptoms and avoid physical contact with others. Create new teleworking strategies for different departments to adhere to any outstanding work to.

Inform and Impact

Communicate with your employees, as everyone is experiencing heightened confusion about COVID-19. Provide medical advice and help, information on the company’s status, their roles, and any financial aid options. Offering leniency towards sick leave, paid leave, and any other credit to help adapt to changing financial situations. Coming together to flatten the curve requires participation from everyone, so providing resources, tools, access, and equipment will help management and productivity. Devise a communications team to inform employees on risk, procedures, and updated training and create a system for employees to report back. Check out this article for further advice.

Determine and Adapt Employee Obligation

Outline the requirements for employee participation and absenteeism. Implementing a functioning framework that covers the extent to which employees must operate (remotely or on location) should be communicated as early as possible.  HR departments currently don’t require sick notes for employees that feel unwell or choose to self-quarantine. As Canada has declared a state of emergency, implement sickness and disability coverage and inform workers about employment insurance.  

Contact insurance and plan the appropriate sickness/disability coverage for employees who want and need to be self-quarantine, for both that are and aren’t sick. Some employees are choosing to stay home to care for friends and family who are sick while others choose to stay home to decrease exposure. Research any policies, legislation, and obligations applicable to employees who are under family obligations.

Prioritize Security

Whether you temporarily shut down operations or continue to stay running, ensure security precautions. Prevent pandemic-related issues by securing facilities, such as hydro and electric reductions, decrease staffing as much as possible, and prioritize tasks appropriately.  Implement necessary precautions to minimize risk and exposure while planning for a smooth transition back to work post-quarantine.

Although we don’t know how long social distancing must occur, we do know that it is temporary. With more participation, resuming regular work won’t require further delay. Consider proper arrangements that adapt to CDC’s current needs while planning a cohesive transition for employees to come back to work. Set new hygiene rules and emergency planning to not only prepare for future outbreaks, but to, more importantly, prevent them.


Michael Noronha

Michael Noronha

Michael Noronha is a client success associate with the JungoHR team. With three years of experience in human resources and four years of experience in customer service, Michael has an array of expertise in various areas of the HR field. His industry knowledge spans from retail, beverage and food, air cargo, IT consulting, benefits insurance, and financial services. A certified human resources professional with a Human Resources Management Certificate from Sheridan College, and an Hons. BA from the University of Toronto, Michael's aim is always "continuous improvement." He strives to enhance the human aspect of human resources through all stakeholder interactions. Michael also has a love for sports and is an avid food blogger in his spare time.

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