By Kathleen J. Jennings (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recent reports from the U.S. Surgeon General tell us that things are going to get worse before they get better in this pandemic situation. But eventually, the crisis will end, the economy will (hopefully) recover, and employers are going to need good employees. So what can a company do now to increase the odds that its top performers (or top talent from other companies) will want to come back to work for them after the pandemic? The following are some ideas.
- Communicate with employees about the situation. Be honest in those communications. Don’t tell your employees that everything is great, and then suddenly lay them off.
- Make sure that employees have the tools they need to continue to do the job. If they are telecommuting, do they have the computers and software programs that will allow them to communicate with the office and others? Are there IT resources available to answer questions?
- Not every job is suited to telecommuting. Think about ways to reward those employees who have to come into a work location every day.
- Follow CDC sanitation guidelines for employees who cannot work remotely. Post those guidelines for everyone to see and reinforce them regularly. Make sure that there is enough soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and PPE (if necessary). Encourage sick employees to stay home. Be flexible in the application of leave policies. Most of all, let employees know that the company takes the CDC guidelines and employee health very seriously.
- Listen to employees. There are time when being a human resource professional is akin to being a therapist or counselor. Now is one of those times. Employees are nervous about their jobs, their spouse’s jobs, their kid’s education, their health, their grandmother’s health. Let them vent a bit some of those concerns. And do not be dismissive of them.
- Further, if the company has an EAP or professional counseling services are available from the health insurer, remind all employees of these services. Federal rules on Telehealth services have been relaxed somewhat, so employees may be able to access mental health care by video conference.
- At the same time, do not tolerate bullying or bad behavior. Employees may be tense or worried, but that is not an excuse to mistreat other employees.
- If you have to lay off employees, make sure you promptly get them the paperwork they need to file for unemployment benefits or request COBRA continuation of their health insurance benefits.
Bottom line: How you treat employees now will go a long way toward whether they will work for you after the pandemic is over.
Kathleen J. Jennings is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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