‘If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself ‘J.W.Marriott’

The spread of COVID-19, (commonly referred to as Corona Virus) has hit global headlines, with the World Health Organisation, declaring a global public health emergency. This has now become an increasing, public and workplace priority.

As Governments/Employers respond to the crisis, and slowing down the spread of the virus, decisions to postpone events, impose travel restrictions, withdrawal of every day services; (restaurants, parks, beaches, cinemas and entertainment venues) school closures, and work from home have been required. As some countries near full lockdown global stock markets have come tumbling down.

Employers will now be in the spotlight as they determine the balance between protecting employees, whilst maintaining business operations.  The pandemic is creating a huge stressful experiment; the reality is people are living in fear, for their health, family/loved ones and uncertainty around job security.

‘Our people have and always will be my number one priority, it is their future job security and well-being which I am 100% focusing on, in these frightening and unprecedented times, we’ve prided ourselves on looking after those working for Virgin, for the past 50 years, we have always put our employees first and always will’ (Richard Branson, March 2020)

Employers have a ‘duty of care’ and embracing a ‘People First Culture’, will be essential in ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all employees.

Communication is key:

  • Regular, updates on what steps and measures are being put in place to protect employees.
  • Company policy on leave and sick pay
  • Awareness of latest public health advice
  • Business updates (performance/decisions)
  • Proactively communicate with employer/be upfront about expectations (working from home/with children at home cannot guarantee calls will be interruption free)
  • Candidate experience – those who are in the process updated on current position regarding:
  • Recruitment freeze
  • Onboarding of new hires
  • Honouring/remote onboarding for hires who have already signed a contract and handed in notice elsewhere

Source: Prof E Kelly, keeps his cool during an interview about South Korean Politics when his two children interrupt him live on air. BBC News World 10/03/17

Understand/be aware of employee needs:

  • Underlying health issues
  • Care responsibilities
  • If businesses aren’t performing; downsizing (should be the last option), so understand how employee/employer can work together ‘furlough’ to reach mutually beneficial solution)

‘After 9/11, at Virgin Atlantic, we consulted with and listened to our incredible employees, who virtually unanimously decided they would collectively volunteer to take unpaid leave for 8 weeks out of the next six and a half months, in order to limit financial hardships for everyone, secure the airlines future survival and try and protect everyone’s job’

Working flexibly

  • Work from home (where possible, and continue to communicate with employees/coworkers; daily catch-up, virtual lunch breaks – for engagement/motivation)
  • Be upfront about expectations (working from home/with children at home cannot guarantee calls will be interruption free)

Embrace Technology

  • Video-conferencing
  • Opt for card payments/contactless/Apple Pay & Samsung Pay (rather than cash)
  • Online services/apps (shopping/banking)
  • Self-service till banks
  • Scan and go devices/apps
  • Creating digital space so coworkers can share files/productivity

Collaborating

  • Identify transferable skills (re-deployment of coworkers)
  • Upskill coworkers for business continuity (absenteeism, another co-worker can step into role )

We need to accept that the economy will be impacted, slow-down in business operations, as Governments and Employers respond and adjust to the crisis.  However, everything is temporary and eventually the situation will stabilise.

As an Employer what message do you want to deliver? And, how do you want to be remembered for how your employees were treated during COVID-19?