If you think working from home is stressful, how about employees who must work in environments where the coronavirus could be all around them.
“Apart from providing the government recommended provisions, such as masks, sanitizers and personal protective equipment (PPE), HR leaders need to proactively manage their on-site workers’ experience,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice.
Ensure employee safety
Screen every employee before they enter the premises. HR and senior leaders need to encourage employees who experience symptoms to remain at home. If possible, leave policies should be amended to ensure sick employees can stay at home without losing their income. Limiting on-site teams to as few people as possible, providing more private spaces and encouraging employees to follow strict hygiene principles can also help curtail the spread of the virus.
Maintain regular communication with employees
To demonstrate a commitment to safety, leaders should regularly share relevant and fact-based information through the organization’s internal employee portal or via virtual town halls. These channels enable HR and senior leaders to educate employees on the right course of action if they begin showing symptoms of infection or encounter someone who has tested positive for the virus.
Rather than trying to provide all the answers, leaders and managers should encourage employees to seek information from trusted websites like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Ensure equitable employee policies
Review and adapt policies to ensure that all employees have equal access to healthcare policies, and those employees coming to work can use their usual sick leave or PTO. Once the crisis is over, employers can encourage employees who are working from home, or who have accumulated leave, to donate some of their time off to create a PTO bank that can be accessed by the employees working on-site.
Develop employee-support solutions
Supporting employees who are working on-site can take on many forms, including dividing employees into teams that work alternate days of the week or providing free, on-site food and snack options.
“Even during this time of major uncertainty, organizations still need to think about the employee experience of their workforce,” said Caroline Walsh, vice president in the Gartner HR practice. “The organizations that treat their employees well during the COVID-19 pandemic will reap the benefits for their employer brand, reputation and talent attraction and retention efforts.”
Seek employee feedback
Collect feedback from employees on the organization’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to share with senior leaders. The information learned should then drive employee investment decisions.
HR can leverage both employees’ and business leaders’ networks to source information on how other organizations are dealing with managing the safety and experience of their on-site workers and use this information to guide their decisions.
Reward and recognize employees
Some organizations are encouraging C-suite and other senior leaders to donate to an “on-site employee corpus fund” to be used to award one-time bonuses.
HR can also leverage their organization’s communications channels to acknowledge these employees by name for the commitment they have displayed in coming to work amid the crisis.
“Employees want to know that their employer is invested in them both professionally and personally, and this is even more true in times of crisis,” added Kropp. “HR leaders must realize that their employee segments that cannot work remotely need help and support in order to stay engaged and effective.”