5 questions every HR leader needs to be prepared to answer during a pandemic

It’s official, COVID-19 has now been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Coping with a disruption of this magnitude requires input from all sides. As the ultimate people division, human resources teams must be able to answer tough questions and go the extra mile to support their employees.

Employees discussing policy changes

The ‘people’ part of the pandemic response puzzle

While IT teams work out the nuts and bolts of mass-scale telecommuting and internal comms strategically disseminates updates, it’s HR that’s directly looking after a business’s most precious asset: its people. An outbreak of illness doesn’t just threaten an enterprise’s bottom line; it also puts employees at risk and fuels sentiments of fear and uncertainty.

Between onboarding, recruiting, training, and relationship management, most HR representatives are used to wearing multiple hats. With absenteeism and anxiety levels skyrocketing, it’s time to add pandemic planning to your to-do list.

Making tough calls with a little help from technology

The alarms have sounded and the pressure is on. COVID-19 is showing no signs of slowing down, meaning that team members have to step up and think quickly. From an HR standpoint, that includes updating work from home and sick leave policies, identifying key business functions, seeking out opportunities for upskilling, and monitoring traveling restrictions.

During a crisis, leaders across every department are called on to make important decisions at a rapid pace. The right digital tools can make tough calls easier by centralizing knowledge, providing real-time analytics on engagement with information, and highlighting the best points of contact for follow up queries.

employees gathering to discuss policies

5 questions for human resources teams during COVID-19

Human resources teams can expect to field a host of questions ranging from basic queries about the disease to those that lead to broader discussions about the future of your organization. While relying on digital offerings alone won’t be enough to answer every question, HR leaders should take advantage of every tool at their disposal, including those provided by their intranet.

Below we pinpoint five essential questions that HR leaders must be able to answer, as well as digital functionalities that team members can point to when preparing their response:

#1. What upskilling efforts have been made to prepare employees in the event of absenteeism spikes?

Whether it’s sick leave or taking time off to supervise children during school closures, COVID-19 is likely to be responsible for a host of absences. To maintain operational continuity in the face of widespread leave, it’s important to arm employees with the skills and abilities needed to perform cross-functionally. As well as supporting remote working, a flexible digital workplace will allow you to quickly build out designated L&D sites equipped with FAQs, explainer articles, and video webinars to help workers get up to speed and minimize the impact of these absences.

#2. What will telecommuting policies look like at our organization?

Seemingly every day, another office announces its decision to close its doors and shift to remote work in an effort to keep employees safe. Decisions regarding work from home policies are far from one size fits all; depending on the nature of your business and an employee’s specific role, telecommuting may be more or less feasible. Take advantage of your intranet’s Broadcast Center to share targeted updates based on an employee’s role and region. Encourage users with special circumstances or personalized needs to reach out to their line manager and collaborate with both parties to arrive at a suitable alternative solution when needed.

#3. What infrastructure is needed to support a rise in telecommuting?

If working from home is on the cards for your employees, make sure everyone has the tools needed to succeed. Social networking tools and communications pathways housed within a digital workplace can help keep workers connected and encourage collaboration, even when your workforce is dispersed. Assess departmental demands and work cross-functionally with IT to ensure that every user can access the systems and applications they rely on throughout their workday.

Don't miss our dedicated piece on how to connect remote employees with a digital workplace for more information.

#4. How can we ease anxiety surrounding COVID-19 while keeping employees safe?

With the news headlines all declaring doom and gloom, it’s natural to be fearful about COVID-19. It’s important for HR teams to strike a careful balance; employees need to be aware of the illness and take the necessary safety measures, but messaging that exacerbates anxiety should be avoided. Collaborate with internal comms to devise facts-based blog content and email updates that focus on best practices for reducing the spread of the disease.

#5. What travel policy changes will need to be made?

Travel restrictions are being issued across the globe in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus. Many enterprises are following suit and going to great lengths to limit employee travel. Be sure to clearly communicate policy changes and provide a feedback outlet for employees to voice any concerns.

HR employee preparing for post pandemic future with an intranet


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HR teams will lead the charge when enterprises transition to post-pandemic working life. From cultivating a connected culture amongst dispersed colleagues to preparing for the rise of Generation Z, innovative technology and a people-centric approach are essential as we enter a new era of work.

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Use digital tools to become the resource your people need

HR teams are used to putting people first, but during a crisis like COVID-19 this can take on a totally different meaning. Digital workplaces arm leaders with the tools needed to make difficult decisions and look out for the wellbeing of their colleagues. If you are interested in upgrading your own solution, get in touch with our digital workplace experts.

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