COVID-19 : Practical workforce strategies that put your people first


COVID-19: Practical workforce strategies that put your people first

Considering a three-pronged, people-centered approach to the coronavirus crisis

The outbreak may be an opportunity to think longer-term about how to create a more resilient and healthy workforce, suggests this piece from Deloitte Canada.

In moments of uncertainty and concern, it is not only about what leaders of organizations do, but how they do it that matters.

As we enter March 2020, COVID-19 has spread globally from its origins in Wuhan, China. In January, Deloitte conducted a survey in China of human capital policies and practices, drawing more than 1,000 responses from a cross-section of public and private enterprises.

The survey revealed:

  • Ninety percent of the employers believe it is an urgent requirement to provide their employees with remote and flexible work options.
  • Energy, resources, and industrial companies encounter the biggest constraints in offering flexible working and remote solutions, and have focused on providing epidemic protection.
  • More than half of government and public service entities are focusing on addressing employees’ psychological stress.

Authorities internationally are taking decisive action to respond to the public health threat, which has caused the business community to consider the adequacy of its own preparedness measures. It is important to remember that if there is disruption, there will also be recovery, so how we act in a time of crisis can inform our long-term impact.

Responding to the immediate challenge: a framework to view the impact on your people

It is helpful to think about the response to COVID-19 as three deeply connected dimensions of an organization: work (the what), workforce (the who), and workplace (the where).  Drawing on lessons learned in prior crises, such as SARS, we offer the following practices and strategies for consideration:

The work:

  1. Establish a business response and continuity office.
  2. Confirm critical roles and backup plans.
  3. Evaluate the actual work of your company and how it might be changed.
  4. Understand what work is mission-critical and what can be deferred or deprioritized.

The workforce:

  1. Show up for your people—set the tone at the top.
  2. Develop a plan for your whole workforce.
  3. Define your communication strategy and make it visible.
  4. Educate employees about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention.
  5. Establish employee support procedures.   
  6. Develop workforce/labor plans, and conduct scenario analysis.
  7. Create strategies for a temporary labor reduction.
  8. Prepare plans for site disruption and re-activation.
  9. Develop clear protocols and obligations for employees who are at risk.
  10. Review leave policies.
  11. Prepare for increased absenteeism and work refusal.
  12. Review anti-discrimination policy and practices.

The workplace:

  1. Prepare your worksite for containment and contamination.
  2. Update travel and meeting protocols.
  3. Review your social media policy and guidelines.
  4. Consider the sources of ‘news’ and information in the workplace.

COVID-19 may fundamentally challenge your culture, how you distribute work and deploy your workforce, and how you engage your people. In the longer term, this situation may present an opportunity to think about how you elevate communications, create a more resilient workforce, and build more focus on health and well-being.

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