The Key HR Responsibilities during COVID-19 

HR responsibilities have changed during COVID-19. Read what are the main tasks of HR now and how to set your employees for success during pandemic.

July 28, 2020 By Guest Author Share on Twitter! Share on Facebook! Share on LinkedIn!
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The key HR responsibilities have changed in unforeseeable way during COVID-19. The pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption in how businesses operate. Millions of businesses around the globe have either scaled down operations or suspended them. Countless companies, small and large, have recorded negative growth in the past few months. 

During this unprecedented humanitarian and economic crisis, Human Resources need to shoulder a host of responsibilities in order to support companies and catalyze changes in the workplace. 

Now more than ever, organizations need to re-think, re-plan, and re-imagine how they deliver services, recruit talent, and maintain their bottom line through a revised HR strategy. In other words, HR responsibilities are now greater than ever. 

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Here in this article, we will discuss the key HR responsibilities that should guide a forward-thinking HR strategy for tackling the challenges brought about by the pandemic. 

📘 Before we start, get these COVID-19 tips for employees to send out during pandemic. 

Ensuring Employee Safety 

As employees return to work amidst an ongoing pandemic, it is necessary for organizations to prioritize employee wellbeing above everything else. Ensuring safety for employees was always one of the key HR responsibilities, but now it took on a new meaning. 

Besides implementing necessary workplace controls as per the guidance from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and preparing workplaces for COVID-19 as per the guidelines from the Department of Labor, employers and HR managers need to ensure employees fully understand how to keep themselves safe from COVID-19 in the workplace. 

📘 These employee surveys can help you detect your employees’ knowledge and awareness of changed company policies during COVID-19. 

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Employees should, for instance, understand the importance of the fundamental precautions against the novel Coronavirus such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and respiratory hygiene. 

If some employees are sick or caring for sick family members, they should be asked to work from home or provided paid time off (PTO). 

HR can introduce a policy of testing all employees returning to work with COVID-19 Test kits to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace. 

Counseling and Collaboration 

During the pandemic, HR Managers should try to maintain a two-way dialogue with employees to ensure communication campaigns help engagement. 

Now, one of main HR responsibilities is ensuring proper workplace communication. Virtual counseling sessions, for instance, can go a long way in helping employees struggling with stress and anxiety due to social isolation, salary cuts, and fear of uncertainty related to health, job loss, and financial security. 

Nearly 67% of employees in a recent study reported higher stress and 53% reported being emotionally exhausted since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

employee wellbeing

Therefore, HR managers need to figure out ways to support employee mental health during the ongoing crisis. 

Many organizations have turned to digital health services to address mental health concerns during the pandemic. Starbucks, for example, has been offering 20 free therapy sessions per year to its employees and their immediate family members since April this year. Ensuring proper employee wellbeing policies in this way is a good example of new HR responsibilities during this crisis. 

Provide Authentic Information 

HR managers need to do more than just ordering prints of COVID-19 safety posters or simply forwarding advisories from the CDC, WHO, or local public health authorities via email to their employees. 

During the pandemic, new HR responsibilities include making the HR department a source of authentic information on COVID-19 hotspots in an area, guidelines on how to be safe in the workplace, and when someone should avoid coming to work. 

HR managers can also provide information on how employees can remain fit and healthy during the lockdown or when they work from home. 

📘 Healthain, our Employee wellbeing platform, can help you incentivize your employees to stay healthy and active during COVID-19. 

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Check out our Employee Wellbeing Platform Healthain

Recognize Employees’ Efforts 

During any major disruption, such as the one we are witnessing right now, HR managers need to take employee recognition initiatives and efforts more seriously. 

employee recognition

Yes, it may not be possible to have bonuses or monetary rewards as part of an employee recognition program. But employee recognition can take many other forms such as public acknowledgment, low-cost benefits, employee development opportunities, etc. 

📘 Find out what are the innovative ways to recognize your employees’ effort. 

A well-thought-out employee recognition initiative during the ongoing pandemic will reinforce the belief that an organization is committed to the long-term success of employees who work hard and put in their best efforts. 

Get our Employee Recognition Playbook and find out how to implement an employee recognition program for your remote workforce. employee recognition playbook

Protecting Financial Wellbeing of the Organization and the Employees 

The ongoing crisis has put severe pressure on organizations to lay off workers and cut payroll costs. No one knows when the world will move past this crisis and all organizations need to make serious efforts to weather this period of economic uncertainty. 

job security

HR managers need to devise ways to avoid layoffs during the pandemic. There are other ways to cut costs such as cutting salaries across the board, revising the benefits program, suspending bonuses and raises, streamlining supply chains, downsizing operations, etc. 

Cost-cutting measures, if any, should start right from the very top. For instance, when CEOs and other senior leaders forgo part or all of their pay, it sends out a message that each person at every level is sacrificing something to sail through the economic turmoil. 

During the pandemic, many workers such as sales professionals will fail to meet their performance goals. Workers, whose pay is directly linked to their performance targets, are at greater risk, financially. So, one of HR responsibilities should be considering revising annual or quarterly compensation plans for their employees. 

Identify New Employee Needs and Manage Remote Work 

In light of the remote-work schedules, travel restrictions, lockdowns, and other such changes, HR managers need to identify new employee needs that may be keeping them from being productive. This is one of the most important HR responsibilities that impacts employees’ day to day work. 

For instance, people working remotely may need a new online collaboration tool, better hardware, or a flexible team collaboration schedule. 

work form home

The transition to remote work hasn’t been easy for many companies. While many businesses have begun their normal operations from their offices and worksites, others still have part of their staff working from home. 

📘 See how to facilitate easy remote work experience to your employees during COVID-19. 

HR managers will also need to find out if some employees are unwilling to return to work because they have family members who might be at higher risk of developing serious illnesses if they contract COVID-19. 

Revise the HR Policies 

During the pandemic, HR departments will need to revise many of their existing policies. Leave policies in particular will need to factor the current scenario. 

For instance, employees who are under a mandatory quarantine period after testing positive for COVID-19 may be provided with paid time off. Others, who are feeling sick, can be allowed to avail of casual leaves under the sick leave quota. 

How Modified HR Responsibilities Affect the HR Role 

Although HR Professionals’ responsibilities have increased immensely during COVID-19, one thing is clear: HR is absolutely essential to a company and its employees. A lot of misconception about the role of HR has been disproven during the pandemic, as HR Business Partners and other HR professionals became personas whose advice is sought-after. 

Similar to that, experienced HR Officers have proven to be professionals to rely on when issuing important changes in company policies, in offering advice on keeping productivity levels and managing remote work. 

All in all, HR has seen an increase in work duties during COVID-19, but also a rise in its importance and recognition of its role among business professionals and leaders. In the future, it is expected for companies to recognize the role of HR in facilitating employee experience both during regular times and times of crisis. 

Leon Reingold 

Author Bio 

Leon Reingold is the Editor-in-Chief at Drugtestsinbulk, a nationwide supplier of online drug and alcohol testing products.