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HR Planning: 6 more ways to minimize COVID-19 impacts

It’s been nearly a year and a half since HR managers have had to resolve the issues of HR planning in a pandemic environment. We proposed six things last year which we felt would be solid guidelines for HR planning during the pandemic. With the delta-variant of COVID-19 raging again across the US, it’s understandable that some employees fear returning to their workplace. We’d like to add a few more considerations for HR planning to minimize business impacts.

Typically HR planning is used as a strategy to maintain continuity of skilled and able employees in the company’s teams. This is done in case of looming employee shortages or of an oversupply of labor. Businesses without an HR strategy often suffer on productivity when challenges arise outside of the business’s control, such as a pandemic. 

One of the most challenging areas of HR planning is the ability to determine the future situation of your workforce. Amidst a pandemic with no clear end in sight (certainly we hope to see one with increasing vaccination rates), this can be particularly difficult for HR professionals.

Here are 6 more ideas on how to prepare for the future:

1. Have a clear and transparent policy for employees exposed to the virus.

You can expect that people in your office will be exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19. It is inevitable with the new variants circulating. Having a clear protocol about how to handle these types of calls will prove invaluable. Set up a way for your employees to call in for remote work if they’ve been exposed, but are not ill. This should not reflect negatively on employees, but should create the environment of taking the pandemic seriously. It should provide support to those employees who are concerned about it. Consider the many employees who could not yet procure a vaccine for their small children. Requiring employees to use sick days to work remotely because of exposure is not HR planning best practice. 

2. Encourage employees to use HSA or FSA for COVID-19 testing.

Your employees should not be expected to pay out of pocket for their COVID-19 testing. Provide guidance on how to use HSA and FSA for such testing (such as rapid-tests). Consider stocking up on employer contributions to HSA, which are generally business tax deductible for employers and income tax-exempt for employees. You can thus incentivize employees to make good use of those funds. It can relieve their concerns about the costs of care and testing in urgent situations.

3. Establish long-term flex work policies

This is subject to every business’s discretion and reality. The trend toward flexible remote/office work setups is growing by the day. Establishing clear expectations about being present in the workplace and working from home should be centered on productivity. In most cases, as long as productivity does not suffer, a flex work policy should be established for the longer term. This is becoming an expectation of employees toward employers in HR planning. Don’t underestimate it: not allowing this may be the only reason a qualified candidate rejects an offer of employment nowadays.

4. Invest in remote work tools.

Now is probably the time to put some of that new technology in place if you haven’t done so already. Remote work tools, as well as sufficient training for using these tools, is a good investment for productivity. We really like these recommendations made by some of the best remote work tools around. If your business notices that the tools you currently use are not helping in productivity, perhaps it is a question of training for the workforce and not a lacking on the part of the tool. 

5. Send tokens of appreciation.

More than keeping the office extra clean, sometimes a small token of appreciation like pocket-sized bottles of hand sanitizer sent to your employees’ homes can go a long way. These gestures communicate your interest in their well being and health. It adds an element of empathy to your HR planning.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

This is such an important topic, we felt it is worth repeating in this post. Be the first to send out CDC updates to your employees. Don’t wait to relay information to them that they can find in the local news. The more responsive and advanced you are in communication, the more trust and confidence they build in your management team. 

By taking each of these steps, you’ll not only be following common HR planning best practices, but you will be showing your employees that you are concerned about their health and wellbeing.

Disclaimer: Suitless does not provide medical or legal advice. The information in this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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