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COVID-19 & Human Resources: FAQ's

March 18th, 2020


HR Professionals FAQ's for COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The new coronavirus is affecting everyone - especially those of us in roles that involve managing humans. As the person that employees look to for direction, and guidance, in times of uncertainty within the business, I feel even more pressure to know what’s going on and how to best respond.

Unfortunately, there are so many conflicting answers out there to even the most basic questions! I’ve been sorting through the noise to monitor the situation and make the best decisions to protect myself, and my team, and compiled all the best information I’ve found here. Hopefully these FAQ’s can help you navigate this new, temporary world as we figure out how to practice social distancing while still maintaining productivity in our businesses.

How can I make our physical workspace safe?

OSHA released a guide to preparing the workplace for COVID-19. The main goal with any effort for the physical office space is to minimize the risk of transmission should someone who has been in contact with the virus come into the office. Ways to reduce risk of transmission of coronavirus include:

  • Reminding employees of ways they can reduce their own exposure (i.e. hand washing, avoiding touching their face, avoiding close contact with others)

  • Ensuring employees have facilities and supplies to wash their hands frequently

  • Accelerate cleaning/custodial services

  • Stagger employee start and depart times, lunch periods, breaks, and other group gatherings to minimize crowding in common areas

What should we do if an employee lets us know they’re sick, or if they’re expressing symptoms of the coronavirus?

This is a sensitive topic because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) places restrictions on the types of questions an employer can usually make about an employee’s medical status. However, because COVID-19 has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a pandemic, the EEOC has issued updated guidelines regarding strategies employers can use to navigate the coronavirus in the workplace. You can read those updated guidelines here.

As human resources professionals, we are in a unique position to use these guidelines to inform policies to protect our staff and business. We can encourage employees to feel sick to stay home by keeping them informed of our work from home and PTO policies. We can also provide them with resources to seek medical attention. At GoCo, we’ve reminded our team about the telemedicine benefit we provide them, and implemented a temporary remote-work procedure to allow all staff to self-quarantine.

How should we prepare our company for a remote work situation?

If you already have a remote work policy in place, this is a great time to leverage it. If not, there is still time to put one into place for your employees to operate remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak. A remote work policy will help protect your team and ensure business continuity during this challenging time. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) website is a great resource for creating a new policy.

At GoCo, we prepared our team for working remotely by encouraging people to take all items they’d need home with them (chargers, cables, extra monitors, etc.) and providing tech resources for them to connect via video conferencing and online chat.

As an HR professional, how can I keep business going as usual if I’m working remotely?

Now is a great time to evaluate your current HR processes. Will a transition to working remotely be easy for you, or are many of your processes dependent on being in the office? This challenging time is going to test everyone’s workflows and point out inefficiencies in how we’re currently doing things.

A modern HRIS will help you be more adaptable because all of your employee records are stored in the cloud, and you can access them from anywhere. Updating policies and sending out new information to employees should be easy with an online document management system. Many are easy to set up, so you can implement them immediately. You can still even hire and onboard new employees remotely by digitally collecting signed documents and working with an authorized representative to complete Form I-9.

Employees can also self-serve if you have their files in an HRIS. Especially now, employees are going to be wanting to access their medical benefits and see their PTO balance. Giving them the ability to access this information on their own will free your time up to deal with more important initiatives and stay on top of daily changes as the situation evolves.

How do we keep remote employees engaged?

Luckily, I’ve been able to find the most resources on this topic because many teams are permanently remote. This guide has a lot of great tips including setting clear expectations, connecting via video and other social apps, adapting your leadership style to be more individualized for each employee, and more.

At GoCo, we’re also implementing employee engagement activities, staying connected with lots of Zoom video calls, constant Slack communication, and check-ins with each team. Not all of these connections are business-related - we’re keeping our team spirit alive by posting pictures of pets, having virtual lunch together, and playing games together through a combination of Slack and Zoom.

Join us for more Q&A!

We know everyone has many more questions than I was able to answer above, so I encourage you to watch the replay of a live panel discussion with HR experts we hosted to hear these questions and more discussed in depth.

Watch the Replay Now!