You can’t turn on the TV, listen on the radio, or log into any social media site right now without encountering a story, a predication, or a warning about the coronavirus.  This is concerning to many including those who work in our organizations. So how can HR leaders address the concerns of their staff (and other family members) while meeting the needs of the organization, as well? In other words, how can we lead in an unfamiliar world?

Having spent more than 30 years in an HR leadership position for several companies and now in that role for a national health care organization that is treating patients who may have the coronavirus, six things come to mind:

  1. Be visible, be calm, be present. You are the people leader of the company. While there are undoubtedly many personal and professional demands on your time, make your presence known to your employees through multiple channels.
  2. Be as transparent as possible. We all know the HIPAA regs and the need to protect PHI. But communicate what you can about the situation at your organization.
  3. Don’t forget the people at home. Address the concerns of the spouses who may wonder about their loved one at work and what he/she may bring home…
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for clinical help. From your health plan, the local health system, the state health department – let the experts provide expert advice.
  5. This is an opportunity to show the company cares. We all say that our employees are the most important asset. Let’s show it.
  6. Be flexible and trusting. Consider suspending rules related to work from home, travel, etc. Each business is different, but tailor short term policies that make sense for your team.

Most importantly, we need to do what we as HR professionals do best:  Listen, provide counsel based on data, maintain confidentiality for our employees, support for our leaders who are uncertain, be empathetic, and ensure colleagues know that their health matters.


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