While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many employees into home offices, a huge number of employees must be physically present at their workplaces. HR needs a comprehensive strategy to manage the experience for these employees.
Even outside of healthcare, on-site employees are common in segments designated as essential, including the retail, food service, hospitality and manufacturing industries.
Keep the health and well-being of employees as the top priority
“These employees need as much protection, assistance and support as possible,” says Brian Kropp, Distinguished Vice President, Research, Gartner. “In addition to providing masks, sanitizers and personal protective equipment, HR leaders must proactively monitor how employees feel about their work and workplace.”
As the pandemic continues to upend business continuity across the globe, HR leaders should consider six critical measures to support and assist non-remote employees.
Read more: Return-to-Workplace Guide for HR Leaders
No. 1: Ensure employee safety
Keep the health and well-being of employees as the top priority. Encourage employees who experience symptoms to stay at home and, if possible, adjust leave policies to ensure that sick workers can quarantine at home without losing their income.
Some seemingly small safety measures can help reduce the spread of the virus and provide reassurance to on-site employees:
- Screen employees before they enter the premises.
- Encourage employees to leave office and meeting room doors open to reduce the need to touch door handles.
- Where possible, limit on-site teams to only a few members, provide more private workspaces and encourage employees to follow strict hygiene guidelines.
No. 2: Regularly communicate with your employees
Employees are under an immense amount of stress and need to feel assured that their organization cares about them and has their best interests in mind. Reinforce the company’s commitment to safety and educate employees by sharing relevant and fact-based information on a regular basis.
Employee assistance portals or virtual town halls provide opportune ways to address employee concerns. Encourage employees to seek information from trusted websites like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that offer consistent, relevant and timely information about the coronavirus itself.
No. 3: Promote fair workplace practices
Make sure that workplace policies align with the organization’s principles and commitments and maintain fair treatment for all employees. Ensure that everyone, especially those in low-income groups, has equal access to the company’s healthcare policies, for example. In the meantime, leaders should allow on-site employees to use their usual sick or paid leave as needed.
Once the peak of the crisis passes, consider other ways to keep conditions equitable. For example, perhaps allow employees to trade their paid time off. Remote workers, for example, might have accumulated leave they don’t need; allow them to donate it to an on-site employee to alleviate some of their strain.
No. 4: Develop strategies to assist employees
Innovate ways to support on-site employees. For instance, divide employees into teams that work alternate days of the week and offer flexible start times for employees with family obligations. Simple measures can be an effective way to show support, such as offering free snacks.
A recent Gartner poll showed that 51% of companies have extended leave options for sick workers or sick family members due to the pandemic. To mirror these actions, consider allowing at-risk employees — pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems and those older than 65 — to take paid sick leave for up to 30 days.
“Our research determined that one in every five organizations has assisted their employees in some way and minimized financial impact by offering additional finances or food and emergency funds and services,” says Kropp. “Travel and congregational constraints will trigger employee demands for access to education, healthcare and daily provisions, so anticipate those needs and establish channels to share pertinent information.”
No. 5: Foster input from employees
Employees value organizations that are invested in their personal lives, particularly in times of crisis. Rather than assuming what is best for on-site employees, ask how the organization can support them and their families. This feedback is useful to determine employees’ investment decisions and next steps. Also leverage both employees’ and business leaders’ networks to gain insight into how other organizations are managing the safety and experience of their on-site employees.
No. 6: Reward and recognize employees
Maintaining employee engagement and productivity during a pandemic requires an extra layer of effort from HR leaders. Many organizations’ top executives have taken pay cuts as a way to continue providing their employees with a steady income during this time. HR can institutionalize other ways to share funds.
For example, encourage willing senior managers to donate small amounts of money to an on-site employee fund to be used to award one-time bonuses to on-site employees in recognition of their efforts.
Send each employee a personal note thanking them and their families for their dedication
Gartner research finds that employees’ desire for being recognized increases by about 30% during challenging times. HR leaders can utilize the organization’s communications channels to acknowledge employees by name for the commitment they have displayed in coming to work during the crisis.
Send each employee a personal note thanking them and their families for their dedication. Organizations that take the necessary steps to recognize and reward their on-site employees help improve employee experience and drive productivity.