“Employees are a company’s most valuable asset,” an old adage suggests. And with the COVID-19 pandemic hurting businesses all over the world, companies are relying on their manpower to keep their firm from permanently shutting down.
Now more than ever is the best time to show your company’s empathy and illustrate how you value your employees.
In times of crisis and uncertainties, caring for employee mental health and physical wellness should be on top of business leaders’ priorities.
Here are 7 ways HR and company leaders can support and empower their employees amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
1. Provide direction, assurance, and motivation
Senior leaders, middle management, and human resources have a strong, trusted voice within any company structure. Employees rely on their leaders for reassurance in times of uncertainty and instability.
People who are in leadership roles should demonstrate a clear commitment to employees’ health and business sustainability in the weeks or months to come.
Let employees know the current game plan, as well as the possibilities for the future, should the COVID-19 outbreak persist.
Leaders should also provide a source of objective, well-researched data about COVID-19 pandemic to ensure everyone is well-informed.
Contextualize updates from WHO and local health departments, with specific instructions on how health and safety measures are adopted by the company.
2. Create a more relaxed rule for remote work employees
Remote work is crucial to keep businesses running while ensuring everyone is safe from the risk of COVID-19.
Leaders, however, should be sensible about the psychological impact of being quarantined at home, as well as the struggle of meeting basic needs every day.
Give employees some breathing room to adjust to this so-called “new normal.” If their tasks don’t need to be done during normal business hours, let employees set their own schedules, which they think would work best for them and their families. You may also lighten their workloads.
3. See if their work needs are being met
Acknowledge that the decline in productivity may not be caused by laziness – it can be caused by poor equipment and home office space.
Not all employees working from home have a good home office setup. For some, working on their slow, outdated laptops, unstable home Wi-Fi, and uncomfortable dining table for a desk, can be a huge hindrance to productivity.
If possible, support your employees by providing them with the necessary equipment and other supplies that will make their work situation a little less daunting.
4. Support employees working on-site
Unfortunately, not all jobs are designed to be done in the comforts of our homes.
Vital industries, which include stores and manufacturers of food and essential goods, pharmacies, banks, transportation services, clinics, and funeral homes, remain open.
Whether it’s within a manufacturing plant, a warehouse, or an office environment, make sure to implement proactive measures.
- Provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation products. Provide hand sanitizers in restrooms and door openings too.
- Discourage sick workers from reporting for work. If possible, have temperature checks to make sure everyone entering the building is well.
- Observe social distancing (6-feet distance). Space out workers as much as possible by relocating workstations. Relocate staff to other duties if necessary.
- Have a no-tolerance policy regarding respiratory etiquette, handwashing, and wearing face masks.
- Display posters illustrating respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene.
- Avoid mass gatherings like group lunch outs
- Perform routine disinfection and environmental cleaning
- Given the public transportation restrictions, ask how difficult it is for them to commute to work. If possible, provide shuttle services and hotel rooms for workers.
5. Improve employee benefits
One of the best HR solutions during the outbreak is to improve employee benefits. Revamp your policies including the expansion of paid time off/sick leave credits, as well as incentives for employees who continue to render work onsite.
Employers should also check with their local government’s labour and employment department for workers’ compensation and other benefits that may be of great help to struggling workers.
6. Be transparent
Aside from the fear of contracting the virus, employees also fear to lose their jobs due to the crisis’s global economic impact.
Be transparent with your employees by providing updates from business leaders regarding the changes brought by the pandemic and what the company is doing to prepare and protect the workforce moving forward.
Along with written forms of communication, like e-mail memos and Slack updates, consider presenting information through visual mediums. Have the company president record a brief video message for all.
7. Check up on your employees from time to time
Outside of business matters, offices are communal spaces where people make meaningful connections with their bosses and colleagues. An e-mail, or even a Google hangout chat, asking how everyone is doing, can go a long way.
If possible, conduct video conferences, not only for work purposes but also for genuinely checking up on everyone.
- Ask how employees are doing on a personal level
- See if their working needs are met, including hardware, supplies, and physical files.
- Don’t ask for any private health information, such as whether or not they’re experiencing symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person.
- Instead, remind them of any healthcare services and other benefits available.
Face-to-face interactions, even via a digital medium, becomes a hot commodity when in-person contact is impossible. Wrap up the call with an inspiring remark – a message of hope and gratitude that will resonate with everyone amid the crisis.