5 Questions HR Leaders Have About COVID-19
by the Aragon HR Team
COVID-19 vaccines have begun being distributed to healthcare workers and people 65+ in some areas of the world. It's too early to tell how quickly we'll reach herd immunity, and what kind of impact the vaccine will have on the return to everyday life (though, to be sure, we won't return back to the old normal). As we enter year 2 of this pandemic, the impact on the workplace and on society as a whole cannot be overstated. Employees are looking to HR leaders for guidance as best practices continue to change. This blog outlines 5 common questions HR leaders are asking in response to the pandemic and what they can do to help guide their organizations forward.
1. How will our workforce adapt to the changes brought on by COVID-19?
Many non-essential businesses have now embraced a remote work reality. While many businesses are continuing to pay employees, others are cutting pay, furloughing, or laying-off part of or all of their workforce if they cannot find (or are unsure of) alternative ways to cut costs. This extends to every kind of organization—including technology firms, who, while equipped to work in the virtual world, have not been immune to the effects of COVID-19.
One area of business that has experienced significant layoffs is events. Many event professionals in both B2B and B2C have found themselves out of work, or their teams have been reduced to a fraction of what they were before. These changes will have an indelible impact on the identity of the workforce both today and moving forward. They will continue to impact morale for months—and perhaps even years—to come.
HR leaders must not shy away from acknowledging and responding to these challenges. This becomes even more critical as the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic is prolonged in 2021; there still seems to be no clear answer of when things will progress beyond the virtual way of doing things in many industries and in our personal lives. This has caused a culture of uncertainty.
As an HR leader, make sure you are prepared for:
- Increases in pressing questions and concerns regarding HR policies such as PTO and paid sick leave and how these policies will evolve and,
- Increases in employee distrust of or dissatisfaction with leadership.
It's critical to be an empathetic leader as you continue to keep employees informed. Aragon recommends having an internal communications plan. Keep lines of communication open and easily accessible to employees as they search and wait for answers. Make sure they are up-to-date with the most current policies, and provide them with weekly updates as guidelines change. You also need to provide them with actionable guidance, such as encouraging furloughed employees to apply for unemployment straightaway. If you are anticipating layoffs, it is important to communicate changes promptly and clearly.
At Aragon Research, we are in a position to help guide organizations through these rapid changes. Schedule a free inquiry with us to get the advisory you need.
2. How will our employees adjust to prolonged remote work?
Aragon predicts 25% of businesses will remain completely virtual after the pandemic ends. This new reality is not so difficult to imagine, as most businesses have been operating this way for several months.
Remote work has many benefits. Some employees may be able to get more work done at home. Without a commute, many employees enjoy more flexibility in their schedule. However, remote work can present unique challenges that employees who are used to working in an office may be unfamiliar with.
The change in environment can be a culture shock; an office full of employees is replaced with a house full of children, roommates, or may simply just be the employee themselves. Impromptu interactions, luncheons, and celebrations that team members enjoyed in the office are often missing from remote work. Employees may struggle with morale, have trouble focusing, or feel disconnected from the organization, which can lead to disengagement, employee dissatisfaction, and low productivity.
Even though your employees have been remote for several months, now is not the time to reduce support. HR leaders must be proactive in continuing to refine remote work policies that will answer employees' FAQs. If you have not done so already, establish company-wide best practices to help employees continue to cultivate healthy remote work habits. It's important to note that the impact of the pandemic on mental health cannot be overstated. Your employees may be faced with depression and anxiety that extends beyond their work life. As an HR leader, you should prioritize mental health support for 2021.
HR leaders are also key agents in fostering workplace culture and identity. You should work with the appropriate planners to jumpstart team programming. Events like virtual lunch and learns, birthday celebrations, happy hours, and more help to bridge the gap between office culture and remote work culture. This is an easy way to keep morale high and company culture thriving, and can give team members something to look forward to.
3. How will the newly enacted laws affect our business and our bottom line?
As guidelines and recommendations are being continually updated to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, new laws are being enacted as well. Aragon advises HR leaders to work closely with their corporate counsel and legal teams, who can help guide them through the maze of new requirements, which we have found can easily change from month to month. Some of these requirements may even reveal new opportunities for growth.
4. What's the best way to hire and onboard employees remotely?
Some organizations are freezing any new hiring during the pandemic in an effort to cut costs, but inevitably, as things begin to open up, hiring is going to return. The hiring process can easily be set-up and executed virtually with the right technology. The challenging part is making the new employee feel like a member of the team—and this is key to help them feeling engaged and productive. HR leaders should look to digitize any onboarding materials and update them based on new remote work policies and best practices, and ensure these materials are distributed to new team members. You should also design and launch new associate onboarding protocols, such as hosting a virtual welcome lunch.
Having a company-wide intranet that is updated with resources for new team members to access can also serve to keep the entire remote team engaged.
5. Employees are concerned about their 401k savings. Do they need to change their investments? Do they wait it out?
HR leaders should leverage the assistance of their pension provider to determine best next-steps. The pension provider should be available to guide each employee through the investment process and offer appropriate advice to each team member. Many pension providers are responding to this crisis by putting together informative webinars for HR leaders to leverage when responding to employees' questions and concerns.
Employees are looking to HR leaders for guidance during this unprecedented time as they adapt to a culture of uncertainty—one that seems to be prolonged thanks to the ebbs and flows of the virus. Restrictions that seemingly have no end in sight can have an indelible impact on morale, and can affect employees' focus and productivity when working from home.
By keeping up-to-date with the latest guidelines and laws and incorporating these into remote work policies and programming, you will help to mitigate employees' fears and set them up for success. Aragon Research will be continuing to update our coronavirus COVID-19 resources page with the latest advisory. HR leaders can use these resources to help them plan for the future.
We also invite you to set-up a free inquiry call with us, where we'll be able to address your specific concerns.