How HR can lead their workforce through the coronavirus outbreak 

By 02/03/2020 March 6th, 2020 Employee Wellbeing, HR News

Originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to emerge around the globe. Since the outbreak first erupted, there have been 53 new cases identified, and still rising within the United Kingdom.

Following this distressing news, the UK Chief Medical Officers have increased the risk to the public from low to moderate. England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, stated if the outbreak intensifies, it may be appropriate to close schools and stop mass gatherings of people for “probably more than two months”.

With this news in the public domain and experts believing that the number of people affected by the virus will continue to rise, how can HR communicate certain precautions to their workforce to help contain the coronavirus?

10 tips that will help prevent coronavirus:

There’s no disputing that HR are people professionals and with this comes the knowledge and experience for communicating some of the most challenging conversations. Coupled with the fact that experts are now on high alert, it’s pivotal that HR is constructing longer-term plans and communicating with their workforce to help prepare for what’s next to come.

HR adjustments:

  1. Stay in tune with public health agency advice and align your business plans to factor in any new changes.
  2. Ensure any changes are efficiently communicated with all stakeholders.
  3. Factor in options that promote self-isolation.
  4. Create a document proactively covering any FAQ’s.
  5. Review any policies and procedures you believe can benefit your workforce i.e. health reporting, employee working hours and social distancing.

Health adjustments:

  1. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve, but not your hands when coughing and sneezing.
  2. Dispose of tissues immediately after use.
  3. When possible, wash your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds after coughing or sneezing.
  4. Avoid close contact and especially shaking hands with people who appear to be unwell.
  5. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

Is self-service the answer to the coronavirus?

Employees are bound to be feeling anxious and nervous about the current situation of the virus. As HR professionals, employee well-being should be a top priority. Instead of employees feeling the need to self-isolate, HR should begin to integrate new processes that encourage a self-service approach.

Employee Self-Service (ESS) and Manager Self-Service (MSS) can provide a lot of benefits throughout this unpredictable time. Both of these self-service options help cut down on paperwork, reduce administration, allow for an instant check on holiday availability and entitlement and update personal records in an instant, all from the safety of their own home.

Natural HR’s employee self-service provides the tools to update personal details, request holidays, submit tracking applications, banking information and benefits helping to improve organisational efficiency and empowering each individual.

On a similar talking point, if an employee is following official guidance to self-isolate, and due to the condition is not able to acquire a fit note, HR should not advise a self-service approach and should consider making exceptions to their sick pay policies.

How does the coronavirus affect holiday entitlement?

As of 26 February, the UK government is advising anyone who has travelled to Great Britain from the mainland’s of Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Thailand, Republic of Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore or Hong Kong in the past two weeks and is experiencing any flu-like symptoms to stay indoors and call NHS 111.

This now also applies to people who have travelled from Myanmar, Cambodia, Northern Italy and Vietnam as of 19 February. Based on this advice provided by the government, businesses should advise that employees do not travel to areas that contain a higher risk of catching the virus for work and holiday-related purposes.

Taking these factors into account, certain employees are likely to want to cancel their holiday arrangement at next to no notice or equally, postpone their holiday leave dates. HR should endeavour to accept these requests where possible, to avoid employees feeling influenced to attend their original holiday plans.

How can HR communicate affected changes?

HR departments should begin pushing out current and new communication strategies using multiple channels to ensure the outreach of information gathered from reliable sources surrounding the coronavirus is received by as many employees as possible.

Within Natural HR, SMS (text messages) can be sent to all of your workforces to notify them of key updates throughout the current uncertainty of coronavirus. For example, sending daily text messages, including health tips or any important news distributed by professionals.

Alternatively, a traditional bulletin board can be used to hold visual infographics, posters and documents providing health precautions on how to prevent the virus or any updates on internal policies. Natural HR’s notification option provides the opportunity to push out key updates that will appear to all users within the sidebar of the system.

Additional methods of employee communication may include:

  • Posters
  • Emails
  • Social media group chats (containing work profiles only)
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • SMS
  • Bulletin boards
  • Meetings
  • One-to-ones

Professionals in people, not health experts:

While the coronavirus continues to spread, so does uncertainty amongst employees. However, it’s important to note, while HR can take precautions to help the well-being of their workforce, by no means does this make them professionals on pressing medical matters.

This opens the opportunity for HR to gain further support on surrounding the coronavirus to employees to may be more vulnerable to illness or have concerning health conditions. Alternatively, HR should do their best to promote employee assistance and well-being programs while continuing to share important news from health experts and the government.

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About Natural HR

Natural HR is a cloud-based HR software company for growing businesses with 100+ employees. Since launching in 2010, we’ve been building a comprehensive suite of HR functionality that equips the small to medium-sized enterprise with everything needed to build an effective and efficient HR operation.

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