What Does the Coronavirus Mean for HR?

What Does the Coronavirus Mean for HR?

There’s no escaping the coronavirus right now. And for businesses, there’s no denying its impact across all industries.

But when it comes to HR teams, what does it mean? How does it change the way they operate? Does it change the way they operate?

New Working from Home Policies

Businesses that already had work from home policies have found it easier to adapt over the last few weeks. Those that haven’t, have had to rush to implement policies, acquire equipment, and lay down employee expectations. Since the coronavirus is here for the foreseeable future, taking the time to do this will help many businesses remain afloat during this difficult time.

It can also reduce the number of employees that are lost due to self-isolation policies. If someone isn’t showing symptoms but needs to isolate because of someone else in their household, a work from home policy means that they can continue to work even though they can’t come into the office.

Every business likely has at least one employee with a chronic health condition, and potentially one that falls into an at-risk category. It’s understandable why they’d be concerned. Employers have a responsibility to make those employees feel safe whether that means furloughing them because they can’t work from home, or prioritising work-from-home policies so that they can still focus on their work without risking their health.

However, some people still believe that open-plan offices are the way to go. But, at a time like this, forcing employees into an office of any kind is a huge risk not just for them, but for the people they live with, too. It also goes against government advice. It’s no longer about if a business likes the idea of letting employees work from home or not. This epidemic will show, more than ever, which businesses prioritise profit over employee wellbeing.

Tracking Holidays vs Sick Days vs Isolation Days

There are a lot of different types of leave to track right now. Trying to keep on top of them can feel overwhelming. The better equipped your HR tools are, the easier it will be keep up with who’s where and when.

Using a product like The Holiday Tracker, you can keep track of who’s doing what and when. As well as tracking holidays and sick days, you can create custom absence types such as self-isolation and furloughing. This makes it easier than ever to see who’s around and who isn’t, something that’s vital in a time that’s so unpredictable.

Building a Culture of Trust

For employees to be able to work from home successfully, there has to be a culture of trust within the business. Businesses that already have that will be able to reap the rewards of this healthy relationship with their employees.

Many businesses believe that if they can see someone sitting at a desk, it means that they’re working. This isn’t always the case, though. They could just as easily be wasting time on Facebook as they could when they’re at home.

Measuring employee output and productivity is a far better way to track their impact on your businesses. When their output is tracked, it doesn’t matter where they work – you can still be sure that they’re doing their job.

Some employees may find that they prefer to start work later and finish later, or they may realise they love mornings and need the afternoons with their children. A culture of trust means that employees can work the hours they need on any schedule. This helps to ensure productivity without sacrificing on happiness. In a time when mental health is so at risk, businesses need to find ways to accommodate.

Flexibility at a time like this means that employees don’t force themselves to work when the kids are screaming or they’re watching the latest government press conference. Working from home isn’t a great fit for everyone, so it’s important for businesses to remember that there will be an adjustment period. Regular catch-ups between line managers and their employees have never been more important.

Managing Mental Health

Being unable to go outdoors and socialise creates challenges many of us have never faced before. HR teams need to find ways that allow employees to still feel connected and a part of the team despite in-person interactions being lost. This could involve daily video calls between teams; weekly virtual games nights to help people unwind; or even having a designated team member to talk to people about how they’re feeling. Sometimes just having someone to listen to your problems is enough to take the weight off you, and at a time like this, where everyone is so helpless, communication is more important than ever.


At times it may feel like what’s good for employees – or the world – isn’t good for business. However, the most important thing to remember is that there isn’t a business without employees. As Richard Branson once said, “if you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers.”

When everything is so unpredictable, HR teams must find ways to help employees’ mental and physical health during this time. This may involve implementing work from home policies or coming up with creative ways for employees to engage and communicate with one another.

The most important thing, though is for a business to trust its employees. Without that trust, employees are more likely to put themselves – and others – at risk.

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