Few would argue that HR teams have not been busy since the coronavirus took hold some weeks ago, but how has this affected how they manage their teams and allocate resource? Jo Faragher examines the outbreak’s impact on the role of HR.

At the start of 2020, the HR to-do list was pretty packed already: getting their heads around the new points-based immigration system, preparing for changes to IR35 and sorting out figures for the latest round of gender pay gap reporting – all on top of existing commitments.

But from early March onwards, even before the Prime Minister urged everyone to work from home and stricter lockdown measures were enforced, queries began to flood in about how their organisations would deal with the threat of the coronavirus.

Over the days that followed, those questions gradually got greater in number and more difficult to answer – from what will happen to my season ticket to will I even have a job when lockdown is finished?

‘Business as unusual’

As we now enter the fifth week of lockdown, however, an XpertHR survey of HR professionals has found that they are now moving beyond dealing with the immediate crisis stage of the pandemic to slightly less business-critical issues, such as queries about taking holiday while on furlough.

As government support packages such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme have gone live, this has enabled many employers to consider less drastic action and focus on strategies to preserve jobs and support those who are still working – even if remotely.

The proportion of HR professionals saying they were spending all of their time focusing on pandemic-related issues decreased four weeks in to 32.2%, compared to 42.8% two weeks into the crisis. XpertHR content director Mark Crail calls this “business as unusual”.

He says: “We are now moving on from an initial phase of crisis management, where everyone was pretty much making it up as they went along, to a more ordered and considered set of longer-term arrangements.”

One respondent to the survey described HR’s workload as “extremely challenging”, and many reported that the pressure on them, coupled with long hours, was taking its toll on their mental health.

Finding balance

Dawn Moore, group people director at J Murphy & Sons, a construction company, says the challenge has been to “strike a balance between reacting quickly to a situation changing often by the hour or day, to making sure we’re keeping an eye on the future”.

The company employs more than 4,000 people, with varying circumstances and work patterns, and across different territories (such as Ireland and Canada) where the government restrictions are not the same as the UK.

“The volume of email traffic has greatly increased, I’m spending a lot of time on a screen attending Microsoft Teams meetings and the like – you already work long days but end up working longer,” she adds. She has been working with HR business partners to ensure employee wellbeing is a high priority, offering services such as health screening, counselling and a financial wellbeing programme.

Anna Clapton, HR lead at background screening company Verifile, already outsources HR administration so there has been a continuation of service from that point of view, but her workload has still been significant in terms of responding to changing government guidelines.



Original article ‘Crisis then calm: How coronavirus is affecting the job of HR’ Written by on 29 Apr 2020 in Furlough, Career paths, Careers in HR, In-depth, Coronavirus, Employee relations, HR specialisms, Latest News, Employee engagement, Recruitment & retention, The HR profession and Published by Personnel Today


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