The Role of HR During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The current coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone, across every profession and sector. With government recommendations changing on a daily basis it has been incredibly hard for businesses to grasp best practice let alone reassure their employees.


It is reported that nearly two thirds of all UK employees are feeling anxious, stressed and distracted due to the coronavirus, all feelings which are totally understandable given the unprecedented uncertainty.


With staff at every level consumed by talk or worries around Covid-19, HR teams across the country are becoming increasingly relied upon as a source of knowledge and reassurance.


In addition to this, they are also undertaking the critical task of advising senior leaders on the best measures to take to avoid an outbreak among their staff.


So, what is the best approach for HR Leaders to take at this time?




Communication to staff at every level of the business is absolutely essential at this time. Whilst there is an extraordinary level of information available in the public domain, much of this can be both confusing and conflicting depending on the source. Try to provide your staff with simplified, regular updates which include the business’ response to anything that might affect them. It’s would also be sensible to open additional communication channels to your staff so that they can speak to a member of HR should they have any concerns.


Planning Ahead


With the guidelines changing regularly it is important to plan ahead and this be different for every business. Whether it means ensuring all your staff are fully set up to work from home, planning for a full shut down of the business or forecasting for the next few months. It’s important that HR works together with the rest of the senior leaders to ensure everyone is working together towards a wider strategy. There’s no guarantee when things will be back to normal so planning as far ahead as possible is the most sensible option.


Health and Hygiene


We all know by now that keeping hands and surfaces clean is the key to combating the virus so provide extra facilities where necessary including hand sanitisers, and encourage the whole workforce clean down their desks and workstations at the end of every day. It is advised to stop unnecessary travel for staff and many organisations will have taken further precautions to avoid unnecessary contact such as using video calls to keep in touch with suppliers and other offices.


Focus on Wellbeing


In times of uncertainty its important to focus on what you can do and for many HR teams that will involve prioritising the wellbeing of their staff. Many will be worried about job and salary security so hold sessions where possible to answer their questions. If you have mental health first aiders onsite make sure they are known to your workforce. It’s also important that if people are working from home or self- isolating they feel they have plenty communication channels in place so ensure these are fully functioning. A key role of HR at this time is to be safeguarding and planning but without causing any panic.


Create a Sense of Community


The term “isolation” is such a negative one and promotes the total opposite sentiment to what we should all be aiming for as a nation.  Change that with your teams and wider work force by being proactive and encouraging everyone to work together in supporting each other at this time. Depending on people’s circumstances this might involve setting up groups of volunteers to collect supplies for those in isolation. It might mean organising regular team video calls where you simply chat with a cup of tea or it might mean being flexible on deadlines for people working from home and looking after children at the same time. There is always something that can be done and these are the things that will bring the team closer together in the long run.


For the latest guidance and advice please visit the government’s website