How HR is handling the Coronavirus: Addressing Coronavirus with HCM Tech

Created on March 10, 2020
Last updated on December 7th, 2023 at 8:56 am by Sherryanne Meyer

As concerns over the Coronavirus grow, Human Resources (HR) professionals are being diverted from “business as usual.” Their focus these days is on adapting policies and HR technology to respond to the unique challenges the virus presents. Adapting to last-minute policy changes is not unfamiliar territory for HR. What is unique in this case is the extensive impact of the change. The impact may be exacerbated by our ability to spread bad news rapidly via social channels. Either way, as HR professionals, we feel a responsibility to our employees, our clients, our guests at our facilities.

How is HR handling COVID-19?

HR processes seem to be reaching a commonality globally when it comes to addressing workplace health. We are adapting policies for travel and work-from-home, examing potential liability, and considering the economic toll our decisions will have on our businesses and the economy at large. Here are some of the top strategies organizations are using to address the fear of a possible pandemic.

Manage employee data in SAP SuccessFactors

  • Ensure up-to-date contact information. Make sure employees know how to get into SuccessFactors and have them update their contact information and emergency contact information. Some companies use emergency response texting systems – in these cases, having the proper mobile phone information will be vital.
  • Manage absences. How are you addressing extended periods of absence due to the virus – whether the absence is due to an illness or due to quarantine because of being in contact with the virus. Some companies may be adopting a special leave of absence code or continued pay and benefits. If so, communicate with employees so that they know how to apply for a leave of absence. Make sure managers know how to approve the leave and understand how pay and benefits may be impacted.
  • Check system permissions for access to personnel data. Do managers have access to the employee’s contact details? If not, how can you make sure they can reach employees in case of an urgent message to address?  Also, consider mass notifications. If one of your business sites has been declared in quarantine, the site leadership will need to send an urgent message to everyone without having to wait for HR to respond.
  • Have a disaster recovery plan. Know how you will respond if, for example, your payroll staff cannot get into the office to run time entry results and process payroll. Is your payroll staff equipped to work from home? Here’s where a cloud payroll solution would really come in handy.

Have a written coronavirus response plan

  • Identify leaders in charge and their roles and responsibilities. Leaders should be prepared to answer employee questions and should also take care to inspect the safety of their own office sites. Does the site need to keep track of visitors? Are your cleaning procedures thorough? Are hand sanitizers and tissues on hand?
  • Make sure employees know who to contact in case of questions, exposure, or travel. Clearly outline your policy for managing an employee who has been exposed or traveled to an impacted area.
  • Explain the expected action to take in the event of illness or exposure.  Employees should know who to contact, whether or not to come into work, and when to seek medical advice.
  • Be clear about how you will handle potential exposures. Employees can be exposed themselves or through friends or family who has been exposed. It is impossible to track all potential exposures. You can ask that employees self-report travel to or through restricted regions.

Travel Advisories, Restrictions and Limitations for Coronavirus

  • Reinforce the need for basic healthy habits. The American Red Cross says common-sense steps can prevent the spread of any disease: getting a flu vaccine, avoiding contact with sick people, staying at home when you are ill, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Reevaluate non-essential travel. For some of us, doing business means traveling to be in front of customers or to be hands-on in development or construction. Not all travel is essential. Moreover, some travel should be restricted.
  • Keep employees travel-safety aware. Restricted locations should be communicated to employees. You can also provide links to country-specific travel and health advisory sites as well as to the World Health Organization. Before traveling anywhere, employees should check the travel advisory sites so that they are prepared for any new scans or other activities occurring at airports.
  • Set up a travel notification and approval process. Managers and HR should be aware of any travel that an employee or family member will do or has done through an infected area.

Technology is helping HR manage Coronavirus

  • Robotic Process Automation. Some employers are using robotic process automation (RPA) to manage the outbreak. UiPath is tracking employees’ daily temperatures. Automated workflows can be used to manage requests for travel or notification of travel that a family member has done in or through an affected area. Smartsheet provides a Coronavirus preparedness template that includes capabilities to track those who may be at risk.
  • Artificial Intelligence. Buoy, an AI-based platform for health, started collecting data on COVD-19 in January, hoping to ease growing fears over an outbreak. Their algorithm screens for symptoms and risk factors provide advice and the next steps for triage. Having this information alleviates stress for employees – which may turn out to be the biggest health impact until the fear of the virus ends.
  • Virtual Meetings. Organizations worldwide are adapting rapidly to work at home arrangements. Maintain face time with employees through Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Go to Meeting. Whatever the tool, be sure your team is using best practices to optimize virtual meeting time.
  • Geospatial mapping.  Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Systems Engineering developed an interactive web-based dashboard using Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) mapping to track reported cases in real-time. This location intelligence gives meaningful data on the virus at a glance – and, of course, can also be used to track people, products, and assets.

We are not going to stop the virus with technology. But never in our work lives have we had better technology to help us manage work and life simultaneously.


The Society for Human Resources Management is providing comprehensive resources for managing the Coronavirus. You will find excellent resources there with respect to telework, leadership, creating a plan, meeting US regulations like ADA and OSHA, and more.


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