As individuals and businesses we are going through challenging times on personal and professional levels, and more challenging times are ahead of us as we need to cope with uncertainty and threats touching all aspects of our lives, and survive the crisis physically and financially healthy.

HR professionals need to plan a survival with multiple facets; they don’t only plan and execute a survival strategy for themselves and their families but all the employees -and their families- working for the company. What are their biggest challenges in this crisis management?

Business continuity is the essential challenge. The show must go on… but how? Business continuity plans need to be in place detailing objectives, priorities, limitations, and strategies in case of unavailable resources. What if the workplace is temporarily closed, are there alternative plans to continue production? If the equipment is unavailable or technicians are absent, what is the policy? What is the backup for the disruption of third party services? Any in-house backup? What about data and IT services? 

One of the biggest challenges is effective change management. With Covid-19 crisis, we are talking about constant change as most of the time changes are implemented short-term and iterated in a few weeks depending on the needs of the company, workforce and workplace. Work is done remotely by a workforce of full-timers, contractors, free-lancers and others, of which all require a different level of reporting and managing. To effectively manage all these actors and get things done in the middle of constant change.

Of course, as in any crisis management, having a clear communication from CEO to the entry-job or blue-collar levels is critical. Workers need to know what’s ahead as of today. Today they’re not losing their jobs, today they have to work even harder to provide for themselves and their family but the company is supporting them. Noone knows what tomorrow will bring. Everyone should take one step at a time and navigate uncertainty based on an employer-employee mutual trust. To build this trust, the workplace should set a Covid-19 policy and communicate it in detail with all the employees. Employee safety and health should be paramount and all concerns coming from employees should be heard and addressed.

Amazon is a retail business whose operations, including essential services, groceries and health related items, continued almost uninterruptedly during the Covid-19 crisis. The tech giant was closely watched and challenged in terms of employee safety in Europe and the US. The company allowed its warehouse workers who fear to contract the virus to take extended leave till May 1. Since then, Amazon has implemented protective measures in its warehouses such as putting on protective gears and regular temperature checks.

According to a BBC article, Amazon is introducing a new technology to keep its warehouse employees safe at work, including a wearable device that alerts staff of social distancing violations. Another Amazon technology, Distant Assistant will utilize visual overlays on a screen to show how close people are to each other. The required distance will be shown as green circles while close distance will be signaled with red circles.  Machine learning will be used to differentiate people from their surroundings and, combined with depth sensors, will create an accurate distance measure.

Amazon recently followed other tech companies such Facebook, Google and Twitter to extend the corporate workers work-from-home period till January 2021. Those Amazonians who can work from home will be able to do so.

Tech or non-tech, all businesses are in the same boat to survive Covid-19. Business continuity, crisis management, safety measures, changing environment of the workforce are in the agenda of all businesses from SME to enterprise levels. Every company will need to figure out their own formula of business continuity, safety, digitization and workforce management.

Ela EROZAN GÜRSEL