November 18, 2020

HR Best Practices During COVID-19

Organizations have been forced to rethink, reimagine, and reconsider how they operate in the COVID-19 environment. Since the very beginning of the pandemic, HR has played a fundamental role in supporting business continuation and employee well-being. As organizations continue to navigate these challenging and uncertain times, we wanted to provide you with several human resources best practices for your organization to consider.

Have a COVID-19 Emergency Response Team. HR holds a critical seat on this team and provides guidance on how the organization will act promptly and efficiently during emergency situations. HR also informs the team of employment law developments, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/World Health Organization (WHO) guidance, revised policies, and employee and client concerns. In order for the team to be effective, regular meetings should occur to discuss relevant updates, initiatives, and communication strategies.

Communicate Deliberately and Consistently. Communication is a key component of building trust and cooperation. Organizations must continue to be proactive in their communications and anticipate answers to questions and concerns they will face. According to TSNE MissionWorks’ (a non-profit organization based in Boston, MA) Human Resources Team, “It is key for HR to promote a climate of calm while also engaging leadership to respond with timely, accurate, assertive, clear, and consistent communication from all levels of the organization.” Kathy Sullivan, Chief HR Officer at Clark Hill stated, “We have made a practice of frequent communication at a firm-wide level through Town Hall meetings and at the office level to provide specific direction based on what is happening locally to help alleviate employee concerns.”  

Focus on Employee Well-Being and Work-Life Balance. Employees are the most valuable asset of any organization and their health and safety must take precedence above all. Ease employee concerns by continually communicating the organization’s health and safety procedures and updated guidance from organizations like the CDC and WHO. HR should also send frequent reminders about the benefits available to employees such as an Employee Assistance Plan.

Supporting Remote Work. Employees need to know that their organization understands the challenges they are facing in their new work environment. Employees have struggled to balance their child’s virtual learning, mental health, and meeting their own deadlines at work for eight months now. Megan Buttita, Research Director from IDC (a global market intelligence firm) stated, “Companies that do not support their workers will have negative reviews written about them, and they will struggle to survive and attract talent moving forward." Empathy and flexibility will go a long way in the this new remote work era.

Re-Evaluate Leaves and Policies. It is more important than ever for organizations to work with their HR team and employment law advisors to stay up-to-date on federal, state, and local laws. Policies may need to be created or modified to address COVID-19 related benefits and leaves. The Emergency Response Team should work to develop solutions around implementation and clear communication.

Avoid Bias, Discrimination, and Exclusion. Another focus of HR must be continuing to foster respect, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the organization. This can be accomplished by initiating productive and respectful discussions, ensuring your organization has a clear anti-discrimination policy, forming employee resource groups, training on preventing harassment and discrimination, and creating channels where employees feel safe speaking up about racial issues. 

As organizations transition into the end of 2020, it may be time to re-evaluate policies, practices, procedures as they relate to COVID-19. HR/AA consultants are available to assist you with understanding, implementing and administering best practices related to the current COVID-19 challenges we are facing.

Sources: TSNE MissionWorks, “Human Resources Best Practices During COVID-19” Forbes, “HR’s Compelling New Role In Response To The Coronavirus” SHRM, “HR Managers Rethink Their Role During the Coronavirus Pandemic”

The views and opinions expressed in the article represent the view of the author and not necessarily the official view of Clark Hill PLC. Nothing in this article constitutes professional legal advice nor is intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice.

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