Most decisions on how to handle Covid-19 has fallen on HR departments to solve. Leaving HR departments and HR professionals left struggling with how to ensure the overall safety and best practices in dealing with an unprecedented moment in history. Many are struggling with getting up to date and precise information on current guidelines from federal, state, and local governments. Many are struggling with how to handle potential or existing cases of Covid-19 at their offices and plants. This leaves HR departments and professionals trying to plan a response within a quickly changing environment. In this article, I will not only provide an outline of how to handle the response to Covid-19, but also a way to future proof organizations for other potential emergencies that may arise.
Build a Response Team
When a disaster strikes organizations need all hands-on deck from multiple disciplines, it should not fall upon a single department to solve. In the case of Covid-19, organizations are met with both a natural phenomenon and a man-made one as well. Shutdowns affect companies, employees, and communities and largely are not something a company can do much about. But, handling these types of emergencies does not need to fall solely on the HR department. HR departments need to create response teams, having Health and Safety teams and engineers working together with marketing departments, sales departments, production departments etc. After you have selected leaders and members for a response team several risks and activities need to be analyzed for risks.
It is crucial to become clear on what positions within your organization are on a risk scale. In the case of Covid-19, understanding potential points, activities, and locations that could lead to the transmission of the virus. Several items need to be assessed:
- How is the disease spread?
- What PPE do we need or have on hand?
- Which positions or locations have the most risk of spreading the disease?
- How can we meet the guidelines from federal, state, and local governments?
- How are similar companies taking precautions?
In addition to risk assessment you must consider multiple operational issues:
- Remote or onsite work
- Supply chain issues
- Purchasing issues
- Marketing and messaging
- Employment issues, lay-offs, illnesses, childcare, productivity, performance, scheduling, etc.
- Customer, Sales, and Product issues
In emergencies like Covid-19, there is always a dip in productivity, it is up to leadership to minimize it while protecting workers, customers, and the organization. The easiest method for creating a rapid response is to follow an OODA loop. OODA loop is basically, Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. During the time of crisis, and in general; it is important to observe what is going on at your organization and the industry at large, orient and align your company and employees with guidelines, decide the best course of action, then act observe again seeing if everything is going smoothly or if some things need to be changed.
Potential Actions and Decisions
There are several actions a company can make to ensure health and safety; however, each company will have its own unique problems and actions they might need to take. Here is a shortlist of ideas:
- Flexible work schedules
- Temperature checks
- Sanitation protocols, masks, face shields, cleaning
- Social distancing
- Shared spaces, congested spaces limits
Using flexible schedules and work styles during this crisis will help maintain productivity but also would limit exposure risks. However, this is not an option for all types of businesses. Creating flexible scheduling to minimize exposure, for example staggering lunches, start-times, end-times, half-time, etc. Maximizing social distancing by creative scheduling and reorganizing workspaces. Setting up sanitation stations and ensuring every employee has PPE equipment and deeper cleaning of spaces, help limit potential contact exposure as well. This list is just a few examples of what can be done at a minimum, but each organization will have unique issues to solve and actions to explore.
Protocols for infection cases
In addition to preventing infections, companies must be prepared for potential cases of infection. To establish a protocol, it first must consider the CDC guidelines. If an employee tests positive for Covid-19, you must first determine the contact that person has had with other employees, in addition to making sure the person infected and those potentially exposed are isolated. This does not mean necessarily incapable of working, merely self-isolating and having the individual work remotely.
Keeping in contact with people in isolation, both the infected and those in isolation.
Understanding Work Better
By having a response team an organization will also gain insights on what are types of work that leads to results, or rather the crucial work that matters. All the work, discussions, and decisions should be recorded, and the results of actions should be measured. During this crisis employee engagement and communication, in general, are crucial. Conducting pulse surveys, and performing 360s on the results, in addition to measuring infection rates or gaps in safety procedures, will lead to better decision making, communication, and productivity in a time of crisis.
OSHA and CDC
Currently, OSHA does not have any real guidelines it has basically left it up to companies to prevent infections without much guidance. In addition, the CDC makes simple recommendations of keeping social distance, remote work options, 14-day isolation period, temperature checks, and sanitation principles. However, companies are left with figuring out the rest. Companies will develop resilience to other crisis that will crop up over time, if they create response teams, offer continual training for members of safety/ response teams, and build into the workplace culture of sanitation and safety at every level of the organization.
BeepNow: Consulting, beepShift, and beepHR
beepNow offers consulting and sophisticated tools, beepShift and beepHR, that can help with measuring and tracking actions and results, organizing teams, manage complex scheduling issues based on skills, increasing productivity of remote workers, and ensure employee engagement at every level of an organization.