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HUMAN RESOURCES: EMBRACING THE CHALLENGES DURING A PANDEMIC 

Many organizations have struggled and continue to do so during these unusual times. There are some organizations that have not only survived but have flourished using the key combination of flexibility, innovation, and a little bit of luck. I am eager to share our own lessons learned while navigating this challenging journey.
First and foremost, personnel safety and providing a safe workplace drove every decision from the onset of the virus. By striving to keep our employees and their families’ safe, each resulting action edged us one-step closer to our company’s continued stability. This was achieved through implementation of several process, procedure and organizational changes for varied scenarios, as well as constant interaction and information exchange with all staff.
Limiting Exposure
The current virus is a respiratory disease that spreads from person to person. The most effective manner of combating high absenteeism during such an event is to limit that exposure, and do so in a way that has the least amount of impact on productivity while also aiding in the prevention of the virus propagating. Some examples include:
  • Working from home. It is important for business continuity, not to mention morale in general, to have an effective and viable work from home program. The key to success for any work from home scenario is to ensure all on-site processes are replicated, processes such as productivity reporting, security posture, technical functionality, and the ability to collaborate.
  • Accommodate personnel who are not able to work from home in a safe manner. Rearrange seating plans to ensure a safe working distance from other employees.
  • Dedicate or hire additional personnel to sanitize all frequently touched spaces, surfaces, and items throughout all areas.
  • Enforce social distancing practices throughout all common areas.
  • Encourage collaboration through phone calls or virtual conferences rather than in-person meetings.
  • Implement the necessary procedures required to send people home, and bring people back. These procedures direct the actions required of our personnel as well as equipment check-outs and check-ins. Simple checklisted procedures will drastically lower the risk and confusion inherent with populations of employees flowing in and out of a work environment.
  • Implement required periods of quarantine following illness and travel. These requirements will vary depending on the respective symptoms and situations.
Morale
A pandemic, or any other type of event that could negatively impact a person’s lifestyle is a stressful time. Help your employees by allowing them to leave that stress when they walk through the company doors. No matter how small or insignificant something may seem, these little perks make a difference. For example:
  • Every company has those coveted parking spots. With a successful work from home program in place, let on-site employees park wherever they like.
  • Relax your dress code if you have one.
  • Instead of canceling company functions due to social distancing or event closures, we offered time off or gift cards instead.
  • Stay in constant communication with staff on actions the company is taking to keep them safe, or the direction the company is going.
  • Offer additional sick days to encourage employees to stay home. Often employees may want to work through minor sicknesses to accumulate more time off.
Recruitment
It is not only employees that need to feel safe. While hiring still had to be a part of the day to day, it did present a significant challenge. Potential candidates interviewing must feel as safe as our own employees. Steps we took to keep applicants and required visitors safe included:
  • Utilized video conferencing as much as possible to conduct interviews or vendor meetings.
  • Spaced out interview schedules to prevent crowding in common areas such as the reception lobby.
  • Keep extra facemasks and sanitizing stations in clear view to all visitors and encourage their use.
  • Ensure visitors are aware of requirements, such as wearing a facemask and adhere to them.
  • When scheduling candidates for an interview, they were asked a series of questions to ensure that they were not ill or in contact with anyone who might have been sick prior to setting inperson meetings.
In summary, organizations must remain fluid and flexible during these times to stay successful and to protect their most valuable assets: people.

About the Author:

Tonie Popovich is the Vice President of Human Resources at Nationwide Title Clearing, Inc. (NTC) and has managed the division since 2011 as the AVP of HR then promoted in 2012 to her current position.  Mrs. Popovich has worked at NTC for over 14 years and has a background in human resources, project management and organizational management. Mrs. Popovich was featured in Metro Magazine’s Women in Inspiring Business in 2019.
Email: TONIE_POPOVICH@NWTC.COM