As a hospitality human resources professional, how you address the issue and communicate with your team can set the tone for how they respond and perform in kind.
Below are tips to help navigate the evolving situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. But remember, HR and workplace laws and regulations vary by state and localities. So, inquire with your HR counsel or other trusted business advisors regarding your specific situation.
1. Review your Existing Policies and your Business Continuity Plan
A global infectious disease outbreak such as COVID-19 can impact your business in terms of risk to employee safety, loss of sales and economic uncertainty. Whether you have your own business continuity plan or one provided by your HR or payroll partner, the right resources can provide trusted, verified information on workplace health and business continuity best practices, as well as market research to understand how businesses are responding to the outbreak to proactively address the crisis.
2. Allow Flexibility to Manage an Evolving Situation
In a situation like this, it’s difficult to know what the next couple of weeks will have in store. From staggering shifts and work-at-home options to turning in-person meetings and conferences into virtual gatherings, look for areas of flexibility in your business operations. Your continuity plan must address how HR and leadership will handle issues related to the staff, clients and guests.
3. Share Guidance
HR should review, summarize and distribute to the team updates and advisories from governmental organizations, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state and local health departments. Download, print and hang these agencies’ multilingual posters and fliers on symptom identification and the importance of good hygiene in reducing or stopping its spread. The more people know, the better they can handle the situation. Educating employees about transmission, risks and protecting themselves, their team and your patrons, can empower and provide them a sense of agency over the situation.
4. Step up Housekeeping
Ensure the housekeeping and custodial staff are staying abreast of OSHA guidance and industry standards on the use of disinfectants throughout guestrooms and common areas, especially on desks, doorknobs, railings and other frequently touched items in high-traffic areas.
5. Communicate and Collaborate Beyond the HR Department
HR is tasked with more than the safety of employees. Best practices and practicality demand they partner with peers and leadership. These can include customer-facing and other positions that may have heightened exposure to affected people throughout the property. Working closely with other positions can shore up potentially weak areas, build camaraderie and provide peace of mind.
6. Be Transparent
HR leaders should coach management staff to be transparent, address each situation on a case-by-case basis (while maintaining the consistency mentioned above) and always seek to best understand each person’s unique situation.
Most importantly, don’t panic. Your team is looking to you for calm guidance. Avoid misinformation, turn to reliable sources and be your team’s trusted advisor. You’ll both help keep the team operating and the collective psyche in balance.
Jean Cash is area manager of HR services for Oasis, a Paychex Company.