Weekly Wrap: Coronavirus Prep for HR

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Feb 28, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

Fears over COVID-19 or, as it colloquially known, coronavirus is gripping the nation. The pandemic is affecting both international and domestic travel, financial markets, and global manufacturing. HCM software maker Workday canceled their sales kickoff in Orlando and other companies, like Facebook, have moved their live events to more local and virtual events. The impact that this pandemic will have on the workplace is already developing.

There’s a fine line between earnest preparation and panicked overreaction, though. While the risk for infection today is low in most of the world according to the CDC, that could obviously change very quickly and U.S. health officials are warning that it’s not a question of if, but when, it will spread. It is up to HR leaders to come to the table with plans and contingencies that keep their workplace safe. Employment law experts, like Foley & Lardner’s Mark J. Neuberger and attorney and law professor Heather Bussing, are making recommendations to help organizations prepare, including:

  • Employers are both ethically and legally required to maintain a safe workplace for all employees. That should always be priority one.
  • Your legal obligations are the bare minimum. It’s time to think beyond that and think long term.
  • Designate an executive to keep up to date on coronavirus news, relying on sources like the CDC.
  • Evaluate travel, specifically to countries covered by CDC travel health notices. This information changes on a regular basis as well.
  • Employers should seriously consider revisiting and revising sick time and PTO rules, as you don’t want employees to cover up their sicknesses or whereabouts.
  • Be vigilant about bias and discrimination, particularly against those of Asian descent. Coronavirus can infect anyone.
  • What happens when someone needs to respect a quarantine? What happens if the office closes? It’s better to think about these contingencies before they happen.
  • Communicate with your employees and let them know you’re contingency planning. Encourage people to seek medical care if they experience any symptoms.
  • Coronavirus is spread similar to the flu so follow the same recommendations.

Employers like Coinbase are putting their contingency plans into the public domain to show how they will be responding. Doing right by your employees means doing right for their communities and the world. Employers have an obligation to do more than sit on the sidelines on this issue.

Quick Hits

  • Remote work was a topic of conversation before the coronavirus pandemic. If you are looking at how norms have changed with remote work, these stats — like the 44% increase in remote work in the last five years — will help you get a full picture. [FlexJobs]
  • The National Labor Relations Board issued its final ruling on joint-employer status. It restored the status to pre-Obama administration standards but also sought to clarify the decades-old regulations. [NLRB]
  • We released our latest research on incentives, rewards, and recognition. The rise of non-cash rewards and aligning IRR with organizational goals and employee engagement are major findings. [TLNT]
  • Which city works harder than any other? Congrats (I guess) to Anchorage, whose residents work longer hours, commute further and have less leisure time than the rest. We’ll mail the trophy with your overtime check. [WalletHub]
  • $1 billion. That’s the amount an average state’s economy loses due to breakdowns in childcare. Childcare is expensive and difficult to maintain, leading to employee turnover, lower productivity, and stress. A state-by-state breakdown is available. [U.S. Chamber Foundation]
  • Thinking of implementing a new HRIS, learning system, or ATS. New research shows that 60% of them end up late. Time to sandbag your time estimates with executives. [Raven Intel]
  • Just 54% of workers negotiated for a higher salary with their last job offer. The biggest reason they didn’t? Over half said they were happy with the pay offered. [Robert Half]
  • Who is the most overpaid CEO? You might not want to read this report if you’re at Oracle. CEO pay continues to be an issue for everyone from labor activists to fund managers. Shareholders, in particular, are fighting back. [As You Sow]
  • LinkedIn is trying out a new “stories” feature on the platform. It imitates the features that are already available on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Not sure about that one. [LinkedIn]
  • Performance management software company Lattice has announced a new investment fund for former employees. They offer to invest up to $100,000 if a former employee starts a new company. Terms and conditions apply, of course, but this is different. [Lattice]

I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Late last week, Barclays got rid of a new system that tracked the time employees spent working at their desks. Take too long of a bathroom break? Log off your computer too early? That’s a demerit! The BBC reports:

Barclays said the software was part of a pilot that was rolled out in part of its investment banking division.

But after the City AM newspaper revealed details of the scheme and published damning comments from an employee who spoke to the paper anonymously, Barclays said managers would no longer be able to track the activities of individual workers.

Sapience, the software Barclays used, claims on its website that it, “disrupts the way businesses operate,” which might mark the first time a tech company’s marketing has matched what it delivers.

It seems less than surprising that employees would flatly reject such intrusive monitoring, regardless of how benign a company or vendor claims it may be. That this was foisted not on frontline workers but on the investment banking division makes one wonder exactly what anyone was thinking. Pilot program or not, this serious breakdown should have Barclays reevaluating how they think about purchasing and rollout planning.

The weekly wrap is where TLNT shares the stories that didn’t quite make it into a full post this week. We’ll also share links to some of our favorite things we read this week about HR, people development, the future of work, and more.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.