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July 21, 2020

Communication in the Time of Covid

communication in times of covid, arkana voices, arkana laboratories, human resources

I have seen many variations of a particular meme but they all say basically the same thing “Oh how I miss ‘precedented’ times…they were the best!”

But here we are, in very UNprecedented times, that have brought unique challenges to the world of human resources. The passage of the FFCRA and CARES acts in response to the novel coronavirus have brought with them a slew of changes, both immediate and evolving. Many agencies such as the Department of Labor, OSHA, ERISA and the CDC have issued their guidance and interpretations of such hastily enacted legislation and the ever-shifting understanding of the virus and how it is spread. It is the role of HR to take all of this information and distill it down to comprehensible and informative communication with employees about what is required of them and what options are available should their daycare close, their spouse is diagnosed or they become symptomatic.

At the same time, HR directors are also hearing from their various providers. The legislation additionally brought about sweeping changes to health coverage, 401k options, Flexible Spending/Dependent Care Account deferrals allowing flexibility to usually unyielding rules. For the first time in recent history, mid-year changes are being allowed to various health plans, FSA rollover limits have increased, 401k loan payments can be deferred and rules on withdrawals are relaxed. Again, it is the challenge for the HR manager to communicate all relief possible to employees to make navigation through such complex and trying times a bit easier…all without overwhelming them and their email inbox.

Through all of these efforts, the goal is two-fold. The first and most important is to protect your employees from infection and your company from an outbreak. If you have communicated clearly to your employees and managers what to do if or when any of the most common scenarios arise, then you have gone a long way to mitigate that risk. The second is that when an employee is faced with an unexpected challenge that they will be assured that there are many avenues available to them to possibly provide relief that are unprecedented as well. And even if they don’t remember or can’t find any of the emails that have made their way to their inbox in the last few months, they can always visit their HR professional and they can work on finding a solution together.