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Masha Masha is a content developer at IceHrm. You can contact her at masha[at]

Navigating Workplace Crises: HR's Essential Role

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are doing their best to help their employees, support their communities and survive. Some donate money and other resources to hospitals and doctors. Others offer products and services for free. And many make difficult decisions, such as: closing their stores or freezing some of their regular operations for safety reasons. But there are also some people who often work behind the scenes to make it all work, and that's all of you in HR.

As employees, we depend on you more than ever these days. Whether it's a question about sick leave or advice on how to stay productive while working remotely, you're likely to be bombarded with requests. Let's face it - if you feel underprepared for this crisis, you are not alone.

Maybe you've been thinking about introducing flexible work options at your company, but you couldn't imagine having to create a (mandatory) remote work policy from scratch in just a few days. Likewise, you've probably written internal notices anyway, but is there an optimal way to ask your employees to pay extra attention to their hygiene? You'll also have to deal with compliance issues that are completely new to you. “Are we as a company allowed to take employees’ temperatures?” “Should we disclose the name of an employee who may have COVID-19 to protect others?

Safety comes first

Katerina explains that the first step is to take care of your employees.

"It goes without saying that everything else has to stop for a while, because the health of the employees is now a priority. That's why we quickly decided to introduce the option of working from home for all of our employees - initially optionally, a few days later then mandatory. (In keeping with the spirit of working from home, we had to convert this conversation with Katerina from a personal chat to a video call).

"We had a policy in place anyway, but we had to make sure that all employees had the resources to work from home as smoothly as possible because we don't know how much longer we'll have to work from home. "

While you take steps to ensure the safety of all employees, you must also be available to answer their questions. As Katerina explains, the People Operations team received numerous messages, emails and calls, at least in the first few days. And that is understandable given the progression of the pandemic and the constant changes and announcements from authorities around the world. In such moments, you need to show empathy and respond in a thoughtful, calm and reassuring voice, says Katerina:

It will be helpful if you create and share clear guidelines about how people will work from now on, what they need to do if they feel unwell, what they should do if they need to care for family members, and so on. In addition to the practical things, it is also important that you support your employees. Keep them regularly updated so they know how the company is affected by the COVID-19 epidemic and how it is responding, schedule a time in your schedule when they can reach out to you seek advice, and try to be vigilant and agile - because things are changing quickly.

Remote work is the new normal

When security concerns and government regulations force you into a fully virtual workplace, you won't have time to adapt the way you'd like. This transition may be easier for a tech-savvy company like IceHrm, but what about companies that are less familiar with this way of working? Katerina recommends how to get started:

She points to some tips to help employees stay productive: "Make sure you are in a quiet, comfortable place where you can concentrate and try to create a distraction-free environment as much as possible possible under the circumstances. And stick to your working hours as best as possible and take regular breaks when necessary.

However, Katerina reminds us that we must be flexible in a crisis. For example, some employees who now work from home also have their children there. Additionally, it is normal for people to be full of emotions such as helplessness or fear, which make it difficult for them to concentrate at work.

“We have to ensure this flexibility,” Katerina advises managers. "Show trust in your employees, show trust in your teams. They know what they have to do and they know what work needs to be done."

Maintaining routines while remaining flexible could be the key to staying as productive as possible during a crisis:

Master the challenges

We can all agree that we were unprepared for this pandemic. So it's normal that we will have a lot of problems along the way. Katerina reminds us to take a deep breath, especially when our jobs have become much more stressful - which is the case for many HR managers:

"I found that all the stress from people and all the things I had to do added up and increased my stress levels. So I can empathize with all the people in HR and other positions who were dealing with the stress "It's not easy and it's important to have someone, be it family or a good friend, to relieve the tension."

It's important to reduce this stress because once employee safety is assured, you'll want to get back to your tasks. Maybe the priorities will be different, maybe the way of doing things will change, but, as Katerina says, technology can help in cases like this where we need to collaborate remotely. She gives an example of how her team hired five new employees just days after the entire company began working from home:

This could be an opportunity for all of us to examine what we do, why we do it and how we do it. We could form new habits and move from "this is how we always do XYZ" to "let's find a faster, more effective way to do XYZ" or even "do we really have to do XYZ?" pass over.

For Katerina, this opportunity arose when she needed to find a way to collect signatures to complete these settings, and she ended up doing that online. "Unless it's critical under your local labor law, leave the paper documents alone for now. There's a lot of very handy software that lets you do most things remotely. You can get documents signed electronically, you can complete and complete a variety of tasks online, so I don't think we should really stop hiring people.

"Do what is critical, do what would not expose you to the authorities, adhere to your country's legal framework and be flexible about what needs to be done and what can wait. As HR managers we should always try to think creatively to make things work, even if the circumstances make it a little difficult for us.

At the end of the day, you shouldn't be too hard on yourself, says Katerina. It's a crisis, it's not easy, and we don't have all the answers. But we know what matters most and what we should focus on now: our people.

"The rest may fall by the wayside for a while, and that's okay, because we have to deal with the crisis. And we have to do our best for our people. If that is to answer people's questions and give them that "To make you feel less worried, then that is our priority and it will remain our priority for as long as it takes."

As HR managers, adapting to unexpected challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic requires a blend of compassion, agility, and innovation. Katerina's perspective highlights the importance of putting employee well-being first, embracing flexibility, and leveraging technology to sustain business operations in turbulent times. Tips By IceHrm!

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