The coronavirus outbreak has become a global crisis. The societal and business upheaval being wrought by the pandemic is unprecedented. Worst of all, the number of people infected and fatalities are expected to climb.
One major ramification of COVID-19 is that it’s forcing people to work from home in record numbers. But working remotely, often in isolation, can trigger intense fear, panic, even a sense of impending doom.
This is why proactive HR teams are working late into the night to address the very real concerns of their team members. HR is in a position to provide the only effective remedy for the wave of anxiety that could be sweeping through an organization: a steady stream of reliable information and advice.
Here are some useful ideas about how to keep your people on the same page about coping with the coronavirus.
Your CEO should communicate directly with all your employees
During the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining a constant communication flow is vital. To maximize effectiveness, you need to make sure that your people are relying on a single source of organizational truth
Frequent video updates from your CEO about the latest developments in the battle against COVID-19 and how they may affect your organization are a powerful tool. A few heartfelt words delivered by your top decision-maker will prove to each of your team members that their concerns are a top organizational priority.
Go all-in on teletherapy
A quarantine can have a severe psychological and emotional impact on your people. While many organizations have already begun to prioritize their people’s wellbeing, it’s time to take it up a notch. Teletherapy is a form of virtual counseling with a licensed therapist via webcam, phone, email or text message.
In this new world of social distancing, your HR team should make it as easy as possible for every member of your organization to access the professional counseling they may need during these most stressful of times.
Alleviate anxiety with a scaled response
Another way to prevent full-on panic is to develop clear responses to specific triggers. If the number of people infected hits 1,000 people in a certain area, for example, you should have a precise action plan already in place. Should the number of infected continue to rise and reach another benchmark, a new set of restrictions and regulations should quickly go into effect. This scaled response should be communicated clearly to every member of your team, wherever they happen to be working. Being as specific as possible will prevent an unnecessary overreaction by your organization, which will greatly reduce your people’s anxiety levels.
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Be flexible regarding sick leave
Another important resource in coping with COVID-19 is your organization’s sick leave policy. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who are experiencing respiratory illness stay home until they are free of fever and other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of medicines. All “non-essential” employees and businesses are encouraged to work from home, fever or not.
What this means for your organization is that you should adapt your sick leave policy to the global crisis we’re experiencing. For the time being, rescind any requirements you may have for a health care provider’s note for employees who are sick with an acute respiratory illness. Right about now, health care providers and medical facilities are overwhelmed. Such a move will also show your people that your organization trusts them.
Now more than ever, your people are depending on you
As an HR leader, you’re tasked with the responsibility of sharing best practice health tips with your entire organization. Everyone on your team awaits your updates about the current state of the pandemic.
But beyond keeping your people informed, you’re the key to keeping culture and collaboration alive while they work from home. This is why you should also encourage video coffee breaks between coworkers, so as to prevent them from feeling isolated or lonely during this time.
As hard as it may be to believe right now, this too shall pass. The organizations that have the strongest workplace cultures will survive and even thrive in a post-pandemic working world.