From event cancellations to uncertainty about whether or not to hold the Summer Olympics, the disruptive effect of Coronavirus on global business is already making itself felt. New data from the World Health Organization says that there are now more new coronavirus infections outside of China than inside. India alone has 1800+ confirmed COVID-19 cases and counting, with many more predicted in the coming weeks. In fact, it is predicted that India’s growth could go down by half a percentage point in FY21 owing to the disruptions caused by the outbreak. Under these circumstances, it has become increasingly important for organizations to safeguard their employees’ wellbeing and also protect prospective employees by adding special policies to their hiring process. Several measures have already been implemented in this regard.
What should HR do?
The Human Resources department now has a new responsibility – to drive business continuity by helping employees feel comfortable and safe while ensuring that work continues at the usual speed. This is the ideal opportunity for brands to showcase their care for their employees and boost team loyalty. As a first step, most businesses around the world have now made it mandatory for employees to work from home. They have also issued a temporary ban on all business travel and face-to-face meetings with clients and customers. Technology is of great help in smoothing out business operations. Apart from mobile phones and emails, communication channels such as chat and messaging are of great help in keeping the conversation flowing regardless of where employees are and what devices they are using.
When it comes to monitoring virtual teams, regular communication is of the utmost importance to build trust. Both managers and employees should actively work on sharing constructive feedback and asking questions wherever needed. Managers should also be sure to praise their individuals and teams wherever deserved to sustain morale. If communication is maintained and everyone focuses on delivering tasks on time, virtual teams can run as efficiently as those in person.
It is also crucial to stay updated 24/7 on impacts related to COVID-19. A continuity response team should be set up to procure and share daily health and safety updates. They should also ideally host daily business continuity strategy meetings with management personnel to ensure that everyone is updated. Communications with clients and partners should be optimised, with a focus on assuring them that ‘it is business as usual’ through virtual media.
There are positives as well
Despite the fear and mental stress surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak, a few positives have emerged as a result. Businesses around the world have now recognized that work can be done as easily from home as at the office. Client meetings too can be held online through platforms like Skype or Zoom, which further saves commute time and office resources. HR on its part, who are at the epicentre of the crisis can demonstrate its empathetic role in supporting the cause of 'Employees First', thereby enhancing trust in the company.
In the current environment, an employee-centric approach is crucial for brands to maintain employee trust and keep business going as usual. The HR department needs to provide consistent support to employees by facilitating work from home through appropriate technology and regular managerial motivation. This will not only improve employee engagement but also enhance customer experiences, as employees can put renewed effort into helping their customers and stakeholders maintain their own businesses as usual. In the end, the more we can do to help each other and our communities, the better off we’ll be through the pandemic and beyond. .