When "business as usual”, isn't: what Coronavirus has taught us

Updated: Mar 23




As the Corona Virus pandemic continues to grow, many organisations including Government are making dramatic changes in response to the Coronavirus. Protecting our employees, our most valuable assets as Business owners, is so important. Your organisation may be limiting travel, cancelling or postponing large events, asking people to work remotely, or temporarily closing.


So what can you so to help ensure this change effort, whatever that means for you, goes successfully? From a HR perspective these are the key things we should take in to account as we plan and ensure Business Continuity.


Reduce Panic


Creating awareness over the virus is very important, as it will keep your employees comfortable and knowledgeable on what they need to do to protect themselves. Build awareness and desire by sharing information on the gravity of the virus and what we can do to slow the spread. The employees need to know the symptoms and if they exhibit these symptoms what they need to do.


Ensure everyone who is sick – even a common cold is not vilified nor excluded from activities. It would be best for them to visit a Doctor to get through checkup. The worst form of sickness is psychological diagnosis, where staff members psychologically feel they have the corona virus.


Work with your medical insurance provider to get clarity on how to handle the virus and other related issues. Having a Medical Doctor to talk to your staff members will also be important in ensuring they team has confidence in handling the virus.

The Human Resource should ensure overall wellbeing of staff members- physical, emotional and psychological.


Working from Home


This is the most common remedy where the Government has encouraged employers to allow their staff members to work from home. However what happens to roles that cannot be done from home?


As Human Resource it’s your key role to ensure business work flow continuity.

For roles that can be remotely handled, you’d ensure everyone was equipped with the tools (laptops, internet, etc.) to work remotely, and perhaps provide learning on how to manage yourself while you work from home especially given the number of distractions and working in a non- collaborative environment .


Work with IT and Finance to ensure all staff members have the relevant resources. Department heads and managers will also provide work that needs to be done and completed within a certain duration of time, to ensure there is no down time. Technology can also provide tools where employees can log in their daily work logs; especially if the team members require a lot of supervision or have yet to handle working remotely. This experience will be a learning opportunity for you as HR or business owner to know your ROI of your employees given the different tasks that will be handled.


Use this time, to come up with a strategy and plan on how your business can have a remote working policy; this will open the conversation with management on how to handle such issues and how effectively to handle remote working.

For roles that are more hands on provide the tools and equipment for proper protection.


Managing Meetings and Events


As a business, you should embrace technology to ensure there is minimal cancellation of meetings and events. For example if you had planned interviews- do the interviews via online tools. If you had a meeting with a client or team meetings, don’t stop or cancel- use technology to remain effective and efficient.This includes training as well. Encourage your staff members to upscale.

Any meetings that are not within the country or require travel should be avoided until further notice and when it’s clear to do so.


Sterilization


Work with your service providers like cleaners and fumigators to ensure the workplace is thoroughly cleaned and the sanitization units / corners are in place.

If the employees are handling cash or other items that pass through many hands- Provide protective gear like latex gloves and face masks.

Common areas like toilets, kitchens or break rooms should have items that minimize direct contact- for example have a tea urn where one person controls the dispensing or use disposable cutlery (mugs, dishes, spoons).


Business as usual


A lot of business will loose revenue during this period, as most activities will halt affecting many inter-connected activities. Use this time to work on things you had put on the back burner. For example that Human Resource Manual you did not finish working on in 2019, updating your business strategy and plan for 2020.


This is the best time to think over your business, once everything returns to normal you will have a clearer picture on how to move forward. Also team members who are due to take leave- encourage them to take leave now, as the business is slow and it’s not as busy.


As a business you will also have to reduce some of the employment costs, for example if you were thinking of hiring permanent staff, you can put this on hold and have consultants who can come in on needs basis to support your business until you are ready to hire full time staff. For example if you were planning to hire an accountant or a Finance Manager, get an accounting consultant who will support you and will come in with favorable costs and a flexible working model.


Don’t Impose Ask


As the Government has given various directives, it’s good to ask your employees what they think and what the business should do. Have Champions who will take up various initiatives, like “Knowledge Champion” who will support the education and awareness on the virus. A “Cleanliness champion who will ensure the sterilization corners are in place and the team takes the relevant precautions. You would be surprised what the team can do and support you at this time.

In conclusion if you’re over your head with a change in front of you, get help! Don’t put your business at risk by trying to muscle through it. Work with experts to help you work through this crisis.



This article was written by our HR Expert Juliet who is the founder of Alternate Doors, A Human Resource Solutions Company offering Human Resource Consulting Services, Recruitment and Headhunting to Small and Medium Businesses in Kenya.

If you have any feedback or inquiries write to her via this link >> Email Juliet

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