The coronavirus crisis has disrupted the economy in unprecedented ways. Businesses are trying to cope with the situation by encouraging employees to work from home. For HR managers, the immediate challenge is to coordinate and manage the performance of remote workers and maintain business productivity.

Guide and Support Remote Employees

Most of the employees who are suddenly expected to work from home in the prevailing COVID-19 situation have no previous experience of working remotely. Many are operating in less-than-ideal work conditions and do not have all the equipment and resources they need to perform their job. They could be struggling with tech-related issues or may have children at home that distract them from their work. 

HR teams should adopt a guiding and supporting role under these circumstances to help workers acclimatize to their new conditions in the best possible manner. As a first step, they should guide their workers about how they can create a safe and ergonomically appropriate work desk, if they don’t have one already. 

HR staff members should schedule periodic phone check-ins to get a sense of how the employees are coping and whether they need remote assistance to resolve issues. The focus should be to set the right tone and make a clear shift from “monitoring” to “guiding and helping.” 

More Flexible Work Structure 

Some of the employees handling key business functions may not be working because of coronavirus illness in the family or due to self-quarantine. 

To ensure a smooth workflow, HR managers should arrange for virtual cross-training to various employees so that the business functions can be handled by others when certain critical personnel are absent. Training materials and resources can be made available online to help active employees perform multiple tasks. 

The company may have to modify or adjust various business operations, find alternative sources of supply, or prioritize some of their customers over others. Considering these changes, HR policies may have to be relaxed and business practices adjusted in a way to provide adequate work flexibility for lower and middle management people to handle critical operations as necessary.   

In the case of multi-location companies, the HR experts should delegate sufficient authority to the local executives and managers to adapt their business approach and act in accordance with the local coronavirus situation in their territory.

Follow the Legal Obligations and CDC Guidelines 

Human resource teams should diligently ensure that the CDC guidelines for employers are implemented and all the legal obligations in the current scenario are being followed. 

HR managers should have complete clarity in these matters and should coordinate with the legal department as necessary to comply with the regulations under the Family Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, and the American Disabilities Act. Some of the vital points include: 

  • Any worker with symptoms of a respiratory illness or fever should stay at home until the symptoms disappear. 
  • Paid sick leave and unpaid leave policies must be modified as necessary in view of the COVID-19 situation and employees should be informed.
  • Employees should be provided leave if they are required to care for a sick family member. 
  • Employers should provide a designated helpline to guide and support employees who need information related to COVID-19 prevention, testing, or treatment.   

HR teams should continue to encourage and remind their work-from-home employees to practice social distancing, and not become lax about the health and safety guidelines issued by the CDC as long as these guidelines remain in force.