As COVID-19 reaches across the globe, companies are lost. There are many unknowns in how companies should approach the pandemic and there is a lack of guidance for what accommodations should be made for employees. Should employers let their employees travel? How should they accommodate for quarantine? Should employers pay their employees when they’re on leave? These are all questions running through Human Resource (HR) Managers’ minds all over the world.
Common responses to this pandemic include transitioning to working from home, adjusting sick leave policies, and, unfortunately, layoffs. Air Canada, for instance, has recently laid off 5,000 employees due to the significant hit to the airline industry. Policies and health notices are changing by the hour—companies are forced to be more adaptable than ever before.
The Chartered Professionals of Human Resources (CPHR) British Columbia and Yukon recently issued a guide for Canadian employers to follow in accordance with provincial, federal, and employment legislation in response to COVID-19. CPHR emphasizes the importance of “Look[ing] After People’s Health, Well-being and Safety.” This is achieved by being up to date with official medical advice, developing a contingency plan, promoting relevant resources, executing an effective communication plan, and being flexible.
An interview with Electronic Arts’ People Practices Manager, Elaine Lai, shared the various accommodations EA has made during this challenging time. EA studios and corporate offices worldwide have closed, and the majority of employees are now required to work from home.
All employees who are working from home at EA have been given an allowance to upgrade their home workspace and to strengthen their internet connection. When employees feel ill, it is no longer required for them to declare sick days, and there is no need to use vacation days to attend to children or elderly kin. Layoffs are not a concern for EA, as sales have significantly increased due to the escalation in free time among quarantined individuals.
Electronic Arts respectfully recognizes the impact of COVID-19 on employees and their family’s mental health. Employees aren’t expected to work at 100 percent capacity. Managers encourage constant communication with their teams to ensure employees are safe, feel supported, and can work to the best of their ability. Employee surveys have continuously shown positive and appreciative responses to the accommodation made by this company.
The efforts by Electronic Arts are admirable, but we must also recognize that this is an organization that is thriving during this pandemic. Layoffs and re-budgeting are decisions that definitely will be made among many other organizations. We can look at the elements of support, providing resources, establishing a communication plan, and being adaptable by EA’s Human Resource team as a model to being an impactful and perceptive Human Resource Manager during COVID-19, regardless of the current wellbeing of the company.
What do you do if someone in the workplace shares that they have symptoms or has been tested positive? According to Fisher Phillips, a legal resource centre for employers, all employees who potentially have been in contact with the infected-individual should be sent on a 14-day quarantine. It is advised that employers do not share the name of the employee as it would violate employment privacy laws.
The Future of Businesses
In the recent past, many employers have been hesitant to adopt a remote work policy. There have been beliefs of a decrease in productivity that influence a damaged organizational culture, a difficulty in accessing resources, and infrastructure concerns. However, due to COVID-19, employers are being forced to test these waters. Lai believes that upon the control of the virus and when businesses transition to regular operation, more managers will be accepting of this accommodation. Through this, we may see a reduction in office space and a reduction in overall employee budgets and administration costs.
The recovery period of COVID-19 is giving light to the future of business; the ability to accommodate for various employee needs, build trust in employee relations through technology, and ultimately save money for organizations across the globe.
Cecco, Leyland. 2020. Air Canada to cut more than 5,000 jobs in response to coronavirus crisis. March 20. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/20/air-canada-cut-5000-jobs-coronavirus-crisis.
Chartered Professionals of Human Resources British Columbia and Yukon. 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice For Canadian Employers. March. https://cphrbc.ca/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-canadian-employers/.
Davies, Nigel. 2020. This Is Why Employers Are Still Denying Your Remote Working Requests. March 10. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nigeldavies/2020/03/10/this-is-why-employers-are-still-denying-your-remote-working-requests/#6a6f5e676bcd.
Fisher Phillips. 2020. Comprehensive And Updated FAQs For Employers On The COVID-19 Coronavirus. March 21. https://www.fisherphillips.com/faqs.
Lai, Elaine, interview by Daniella Pettenon. 2020. Mentorship Meeting 3 (March 20).