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Although much of the workforce has been removed to the remote work format, there are many segments designated as essential and therefore need to continue working and exposing themselves more to the risks of contagion of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).
However, as the current crisis presents factors that have never been seen by this generation and its initial consequences impact people’s health, it is expected the growth of sensations such as anxiety and insecurity, which need to be taken into account by leaders.
“These employees need as much protection, assistance, and support as possible,” warns Brian Kropp, Gartner’s Vice President of Research. “In addition to providing masks, disinfectants, and personal protective equipment, HR leaders should proactively monitor how employees feel about their work and workplace,” he adds.
Below, the consultancy presents initiatives that companies can adopt to make the present moment less worrisome for teams that cannot adopt social distancing:
Keep employee health and well-being your top priority. Encourage those with symptoms of the disease to stay at home and, if possible, adjust leave policies to ensure that sick workers can go into quarantine without harming their income.
Some seemingly small security measures can help reduce the spread of the virus and provide security for face-to-face employees:
- Check the temperature of employees before they enter the premises;
- Encourage employees to leave office doors and meeting rooms open to reduce the need to touch door handles;
- Limit face-to-face teams to just a few members whenever possible. Provide more private space and encourage employees to follow strict hygiene guidelines.
Employees are under an immense amount of stress and need to make sure that their organization cares about them and has their best interests in mind.
Strengthen the company’s commitment to security and instruct your employees by sharing relevant, fact-based information on a regular basis. Employee assistance portals or virtual channels provide timely ways to address employee concerns.
Encourage them to search for information on trusted websites, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and health authorities, that provide consistent, relevant, and important information about coronavirus.
Promote fair workplace policies
Ensure that workplace policies are aligned with your organization’s principles and commitments, and maintain fair treatment for all employees.
Ensure that everyone, especially those in low-income groups, has equal access to the company’s health policies, for example. Meanwhile, leaders should allow face-to-face employees to use their vacations as needed.
After the peak of the crisis passes, consider other ways to maintain a level playing field. For example, perhaps allow the negotiation of paid leave.
Develop strategies to help employees
Innovate ways to support face-to-face employees. For example, divide employees into teams that work on alternate days of the week and offer more flexible entry times for those with higher family obligations. Simple measures can be an effective way to demonstrate support, such as offering free snacks.
A recent Gartner survey showed that 51% of organizations extended leave options to sick workers or those who had sick relatives during the pandemic.
To mirror these actions, consider allowing employees in at-risk groups – pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, or over 65 – to take paid leave for up to 30 days.
“Our research determined that one in five organizations helped their employees in some way and minimized financial impacts by offering additional compensation or funds for food and emergencies,” the analyst says.
“Travel and socialization restrictions will trigger demands from employees for access to education, health and daily provisions, so anticipate these needs and establish channels for sharing relevant information,” he adds.
Employees value companies that invest in their personal lives, especially in times of crisis. Instead of assuming what’s best for your employees, ask how you can support them and their families. This feedback is useful for determining your people’s investment decisions and next steps.
In addition, leverage networks between employees and business leaders to learn about how other organizations are managing the security and experience of their face-to-face teams.
Reward and recognize
Maintaining employee engagement and productivity during a pandemic requires an extra layer of effort from HR leaders.
Executives at the largest companies have reduced their own salaries as a way to continue offering their employees a stable income during this period. HR can institutionalize other ways of sharing funds.
For example, encourage senior managers to donate small amounts to a fund intended to be used to reward exceptional bonuses for face-to-face employees in recognition of their efforts.
A Gartner survey indicates that workers’ desire to be recognized increases by about 30% in times of hardship.
HR leaders can use the organization’s communication channels to nominally recognize employees for their commitment during the crisis. Also send a personal note to each individual thanking them and their families for their dedication.
Organizations that take steps to recognize and reward their in-person employees help improve the workplace experience and increase productivity.