Companies’ Updated Human Resources Policies in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) has been affecting human lives significantly. Schools, shops, and even businesses are closing down; people are not leaving their houses; offline classes are converted into online classes; works are done by home; meetings are converted into voice/video calls; et cetera. Moreover, many people are losing their jobs and some of them doesn’t even have savings to sustain their life throughout the pandemic. Employees worry more about the potential disruptions to their work and how the organization plans to manage its operations than their own physical safety (Wiles, 2020). Companies of all sizes and across industries also encounter the problems caused by Covid-19. Every company need to monitor the situation closely and adjust their policies in accordance with the rapidly- evolving situation. It is important that companies take proactive steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Besides that, they need to make the right decisions and adjustments for their company to survive in this pandemic.

Layoffs and furloughs are widely happening in companies around the world — some reported that they have laid off or furloughed 80% to 90% of their employees [1]. According to Dunn (2020), a restaurant-group owner in Cincinnati closed tens of their restaurants after attempting a takeout-only model for awhile. Furthermore, the owner even had to furlough most of the group’s staff, except for some managers — hoping that the owner will be able to open the restaurants gradually [2]. The owner has to calculate his/her plans right because any mistake might lead to business failure. A manufacturer in Northeast Ohio also makes efforts to make sure that he has enough people to come to work — because this industry needs physical work. The manufacturer provides incentives for his employees who are able and willing to come to work [3]. I think, there are two reasons why employees are willing to come to work: they feel responsible for their work or they need money to sustain their life — especially in this Covid- 19 situation. No matter what their reasons are, giving incentives for them — the people who make more effort — is needed as a form of appreciation.

In late February, big companies like Amazon, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Google advised workers to stop coming into the office [4]. On March 1, Twitter announced that it had suspended non-critical business travel and events. Then, they updated its statement in the following day by strongly advising its employees globally to work from home. This shows Twitter’s contribution to lowering the probability of the spread of the coronavirus.

Twitter—a social networking service—is taking quick, responsive, and evident measurements responding to Covid-19. Twitter’s Head of Human Resources, Jennifer Christie—in a message to staff, said that even though this an unprecedented step, but these are also unprecedented times [5]. As Christie’s positive statement caught my attention, in this paper, I’ll be focusing on how Twitter is managing their human resources in the midst of Covid-19. It is important to not be panic during this kind of situation. Besides, staying calm is good for both employers’ and employees’ mental health.

We know that almost every company has hourly workers working for them. But, most of those hourly workers might not able to perform their work from home in this situation. Responding to this matter, Twitter will continue to pay contractors, vendors, and hourly worker’s costs that cover standard working hours. What’s fascinating is that Twitter is not only giving orders for their employees to work from home, but is also helping them to set up their at-home office. All employees will receive reimbursement toward their home office set up expenses. Twitter even provides home office equipment for their employees. This move can create a positive environment around employees and support the their productivity. Killing two birds with one stone, Twitter is using their vendors to ensure that their contractor’s work-from- home needs are met as well. Twitter is trying to be efficient—making the most of its human resources.

Besides that, employees who are parents may be experiencing an increase in day-care expenses because they close due to COVID-19. Responding to this, Twitter is providing financial and emotional support for their employees by providing reimbursement for the additional day-care expenses incurred. It is a good move that Twitter listens to its employees’ feedback and opinions. At times like this, maintaining good communication is crucial. Sharing insights and learning is needed—providing resource guides—to help employees getting their work done.

This is a critical time for leaders and stakeholders to decide on some policies in order to avoid the chaos that might happen within the company. This is an unprecedented situation where there’s no universal action template to adopt. It’s better to be flexible and conscientious about ongoing risk rather than expecting a hasty return to normal (McLain & Ashcraft, 2020). According to Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard School of Business, companies that promote safety and ethics have been proven to improve employee and business performance (Bersin, 2020). In this situation — the Covid-19 pandemic — companies should accept the business interruption that is taking place and focusing on taking care of their people. HR leaders need to make the right people-focused decisions [6].

It should be noted that employees are looking to their managers for guidance on matters like mental health, work & life management, et cetera — and those managers may themselves be at a loss. Managers — including HR leaders — should be prepared to answer any questions asked by the employees. HR leaders should also be able to safeguard the employees against the spread of the illness, without causing panic. This can be done by providing accurate information about coronavirus — for instance, by relying on information that is provided by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

As to avoid the spread of misinformation, HR have to ensure that employees aren’t sharing false information or gossiping about others (Sholinksy on McIlvaine, 2020). Misinformation could lead to panic and the company will end up in chaos. Employers should also make sure that employees aren’t refusing to interact with colleagues and customers who are Asian — as the coronavirus started in Wuhan, China [7]. That kind of behavior could lead to conflict about discrimination based on national origin and ethnicity. This will have a long-term impact, particularly in the relationship between employees.

Despite the perplexity that might happen, companies should put employees’ health and safety above all else — letting people take time off without penalty, for example. This is what we call as humanity after all. Besides, employees are unable to focus on work responsibilities when their well-being and that of their family are in peril. The critical matter that companies must address is whether their employees are safe, followed by whether they are able to perform critical functions. Companies have to be able to monitor the situation, provide a safe workplace, and offer their employees the support that they need. For instance, giving adequate access to paid sick leave policies. Lastly, although companies already tried their best for internal meetings and other important tasks to be optimized by remote participation, some jobs are not ideal to be done from home. Hence, companies have to make sure that their offices are clean and sterilized. This is important to obiviate employees’ from coronavirus.

This Covid-19 situation requires employees to stay home to limit exposure and to slow down the spread of the disease. Based on that reason, remote work is urgently needed to be implemented as soon as possible. We need to emphasize the fact that working from home doesn’t change the usual day-to-day work. It just means that we’ll be doing it from a different environment. Eric Hutcherson, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of the NBA, said that remote work situation is creating a new normal [8]. Some people have learned to adjust their work-hours based on home conditions—taking meetings in the evening because they’re caring for kids during the day, for example. With schools closed nationwide, many workers are unexpectedly working from home with kids as their co-workers. Because of this, company leaders should be more understanding. Katie Patterson, Chief Human Resources Officer of Ally Financial, reckoned that company leaders need to provide more flexibility than what their employees are accustomed to (Mayer, 2020). For managers, managing a distributed team might be hard and complicated. They have the responsibility to provide a consistent and positive employee experience for everyone in the team, regardless of the location. Actually, there are not much things change when the team is fully distributed as long as we focused on the three pillars of management: strategy, growth, and care [9].

To support remote working, we can utilize existing technology. There are applications such as Google Meet and Zoom as a platform to communicate through a conference call. There are also Slack and Trello to help managing project—arranging tasks, tracking project progress, et cetera. To ensure all employees have access to remote work technologies, companies might need to invest in technology and infrastructure to support remote work and virtual collaboration capabilities.

Good communication is key in order to maintain company’s cohesiveness. Managers have to be present and find ways to connect with each employee. This should be done beyond virtual rigid meetings—as they are not enough to keep people engaged—by setting up virtual happy hours, virtual coffee chats, and other fun and flexible agenda [10]. Managers also need to check in frequently on their wellbeing and see what they need. Everyone in a team should also show gratitude to each other by giving appreciation via email or text and take the time to celebrate team or individual success (Bubb on Starner, 2020). This will have good impacts on both employees’ mental health and productivity. The survey conducted by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchase Coalitions shows that more than half of 256 employers provide special emotional and mental health programs for their human resources due to the Covid-19 outbreak. As feelings of anxiety and stress are inevitable, mental health programs can help to cope with employees’ feelings, while also teaching them for managing distress [11].

Companies need to monitor the situation closely and adjust their policies in accordance with the rapidly-evolving situation. It is important that companies take proactive steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Twitter—a social networking service—is taking quick, responsive, and evident measurements responding to Covid-19: pays contractors, vendors, and hourly worker’s costs that cover standard working hours; helps its employees to set up their at- home office; gives reimbursement toward employees’ home office set up expenses; uses its vendors to ensure that their contractor’s work-from-home needs are met; and provides financial and emotional support for their employees. In managing their human resources throughout the pandemic, there are some policies that companies can take: putting health and safety as the highest priority, conducting remote work, and maintaining good communication by providing assistance or consultation.

[1] Dunn, J. (2020, April 9). Fourth District Business Response to COVID-19: Early Findings. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Hern, A. (2020, March 13). Covid-19 Could Cause Permanent Shift Towards Home Working. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/13/covid-19-could-cause-permanent-shift-towards-home-working

[5] Hern, A. (2020, March 13). Covid-19 Could Cause Permanent Shift Towards Home Working. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/13/covid-19-could-cause-permanent-shift-towards-home-working

[6] Bersin, J. (2020, March 24). Josh Bersin: HR’s role in crisis: creating a sense of trust. Human Resource Executive. Retrieved from https://hrexecutive.com/hrs-role-in-crisis-creating-a-sense-of-trust/

[7] Mcllvaine, A. R. (2020, February 10). Coronavirus: HR’s role. Human Resource Executive Retrieved from https://hrexecutive.com/coronavirus-hrs-role/

[8] Bersin, J. (2020, April 1). Responding To COVID-19. Ten Lessons From The World’s HR Leaders. Retrieved from https://joshbersin.com/2020/04/responding-to-covid-19-ten-lessons-from-the-worlds-hr-leaders/

[9] Crishtie, J. (2020, March 1). Keeping our employees and partners safe during #coronavirus. Retrieved from https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/keeping-our-employees-and-partners-safe-during-coronavirus.html

[10] Starner, T. (2020, April 20). IBM offers best practices for managers during the COVID-19 crisis. Human Resource Executive. Retrieved from https://hrexecutive.com/ibm-offers-best-practices-for-managers-during-the-covid-19-crisis/

[11] Mayer, K. (2020, April 28). HRE’s number of day: mental health programs. Human Resource Executive. Retrieved from https://hrexecutive.com/hres-number-of-the-day-mental-health-programs/

References

Bersin, J. (2020, March 24). Josh Bersin: HR’s role in crisis: creating a sense of trust. Human Resource Executive. Retrieved from https://hrexecutive.com/hrs-role-in-crisis- creating-a-sense-of-trust/

Bersin, J. (2020, April 1). Responding To COVID-19. Ten Lessons From The World’s HR Leaders. Retrieved from https://joshbersin.com/2020/04/responding-to-covid-19-ten- lessons-from-the-worlds-hr-leaders/

Crishtie, J. (2020, March 1). Keeping our employees and partners safe during #coronavirus. Retrieved from https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/keeping-our- employees-and-partners-safe-during-coronavirus.html

Dunn, J. (2020, April 9). Fourth District Business Response to COVID-19: Early Findings. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Retrieved from https://www.clevelandfed.org/newsroom-and-events/publications/cfed-district-data- briefs/cfddb-20200409-fourth-district-business-response.

Hern, A. (2020, March 13). Covid-19 Could Cause Permanent Shift Towards Home Working. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/13/covid-19-could-cause-perma nent-shift-towards-home-working

Mayer, K. (2020, April 27). HRE’s number of the day: employee flexibility. Human Resource Executive. Retrieved from https://hrexecutive.com/hres-number-of-the-day- employee-flexibility/

Mayer, K. (2020, April 28). HRE’s number of day: mental health programs. Human Resource Executive. Retrieved from https://hrexecutive.com/hres-number-of-the-day-mental- health-programs/

McLain, B., & Ashcraft, C. (2020, April 3). Building More Inclusive Cultures Work While We’re At Home. National Center for Women & Information Technology. Retrieved from https://www.ncwit.org/blog/building-more-inclusive-cultures-work-while- we%E2%80%99re-home

Mcllvaine, A. R. (2020, February 10). Coronavirus: HR’s role. Human Resource Executive Retrieved from https://hrexecutive.com/coronavirus-hrs-role/

O’Connel, K. (2020, March 17). 5 Important HR Considerations in the Time of COVID-19. Business.com. Retrieved from https://www.business.com/articles/5-hr- considerations-for-covid-19/

An 18 years old undergraduate student — a lifetime learner, at the same time — who is eager to have broader knowledge by exchanging stories and perspectives.