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4 Ways HR Can Support Workers Through COVID-19

Times are uncertain and change in the workplace is occurring at a rapid pace.  HR plays a role in supporting the organization, leaders, and workers as they work through COVID-19 social distancing while contributing to the workers being successful and productive – either as essential workers in high-risk situations or as non-essential workers who have suddenly been forced to work from home.

In uncertain times, it can help to take a few key initiatives that you can do well and implement them. Here are four initiatives to consider: communication, focus on mental health, right resources for workers, and accept things are different

1. Communicate 

Communication becomes even more important as organizations and their workers navigate COVID-19.  HR’s goal in communications should be to inform all workers, with as much information as possible.  

Communicate early and often.  Inform workers of what you know, as soon as you know it.  Workers will be less anxious if they are informed. You may not know all of the information but:

  • Inform workers of what you know 
  • Point out what isn’t known
  • Share that you will communicate more information as it becomes known

Get ahead of fearful questions.  Address workers’ fears regarding business continuity, changes in compensation, etc.  Create a COVID-19-FAQ communication and circulate it companywide. Address:

  • What resources are available to workers and their families to help them navigate COVID-19
  • What will happen if the organization is forced to close, will workers be paid?
  • What if a worker has symptoms of the illness?
  • Will alternative work schedules and flex time be implemented to lower contact?
  • Should workers stay home if they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19?
  • Who will support workers as they transition to working from home?
  • Etc.

Establish feedback channels so workers can ask questions and seek clarification as needed.

2. Make Mental Health a Major Focus

Fear and anxiety are on the rise worldwide.  Your workers may be feeling high anxiety and stress while navigating tremendous workplace and personal changes.  Refer workers to your organization’s Employee Family Assistance Plan (EFAP) or other mental health support benefits.  Remind workers that if they are feeling anxious or simply need someone to talk to the EFAP is an excellent resource.

Consider having an expert create a webinar for workers that addresses coping with stress and anxiety.

Tell your staff to prioritize relaxation and rest while encouraging them to also eat well, exercise and get outside.  Ensure that they understand that their feelings are normal and the organization will support them however possible.

3. Resources for workers

As the work changes the resources required for workers will change.  Very quickly HR will have to conduct job analysis to ensure people have the resources they need. This job analysis may be a quick process but by no means does that diminish the importance.  For example; some new or modified resources that may be required are:

  • IT support and new IT tools
  • Training for new or additional safety measures
  • Training for leaders to support workers
  • Setting up mentors or work-support groups to assist in creating a stronger communication and support network

HR has a key role in helping the organization be nimble and responsive to ensure workers have the right resources to do the work asked of them. 

4. Accept things are different

These are unprecedented times.  Even if workers are doing their normal work, such as being a front-line worker at a grocery store, or a financial planner that normally works from home, things are different.  HR needs to support the organization, specifically the leadership team, to understand that; although it may seem like business as usual, it is not. Work expectations may need to be modified because of a number of changes. Some examples are: 

  • Time is required for additional safety measures,
  • Workers may not have the same focus, 
  • New tasks may be implemented, 
  • Work process more than likely have changed, 

just to name a few. 

HR is a key support to the organization and the workers during these times.  Keep in mind’ “this two will pass”. To support your workers during Covid-19 communicate often, provide necessary resources, prioritize mental health and wellbeing and accept that things are different.

We’re all in this together.

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