Already in the face of economic meltdown, companies started to feel the heat of the next wave which came in an unprecedented fashion in the form of a virus called COVID-19. The spread of this fatal pandemic turned the show upside down for many organisations, companies and entrepreneurs across the country by balking most business activity due to lockdowns and quarantine. This situation has also spelt a disaster on the workforce as the organisations, to survive the situation and to deal with budget cuts, are resorting to downsizing work force and considering pay cuts.

If layoffs and pay cuts are the only survival options for a company to make it through this crucial quarter, then it is an indicator of a far more worse situation for the organisation and employees in the future. As reported by the UN, it might take about 2 years for the global economy to recover from this crisis. So the question is even, if HR budgets are to be taken into consideration, does it have to be lay offs and pay cuts? To deal with a challenging situation, organisations need to employ innovative strategies. Since the spread of the viral infection is growing day after day, both employees and employers have adjusted to a new climate of work from home.

This new custom has brought in a different experience for organisations that has not only helped to maintain and manage budget, but also assure health benefits and job security to its employees. The work from home decision has enabled companies to save overhead costs like travel, power and other allowances and drive its business cycle in a normal manner. Some other alternatives that organisations have introduced to withstand the turmoil and maintain the well-being of its workers are listed here.

1. Communication acts as a key to strong leadership and maintain conducive business environment.

Employers or Managers in a quarantine situation should ensure that staff are informed about the progress of work that has been carried out by their team and also provide guidance and support to execute duties through conference calls, video calls, voice messages or through hangouts or mails. Losing the current workforce may not be a good idea for organisations. Instead they should optimise the situation and put to test the efficiency levels of employees to execute duties within short periods while also managing personal and family commitments. In case, the employee under-confident of handling certain challenges in the work process, employers should ensure that they provide them time and emotional support to produce positive results, instead of being too transactional.

2 In an emergency, employers should conduct discussion on various forums and platforms where the employee gets trained on various modes of working.

Now that there is a lockdown that does not allow social gathering or meets, employers should identify subject-matter experts to provide insights through webinar sessions. Employees should be provided access to various online courses that make them digitally savvy and interact with clients from remote points to meet business goals and enhance productivity.

3 Happiness is the ultimate goal of any endeavour.

Every employee works for rewards and recognition. In that way, companies or employers should not undermine the abilities, time and effort invested by an employee towards achieving a particular target but appreciate them through appraisal schemes. Now that a pandemic has pervaded the landscape of business, employers should not take it as an excuse for halting benefits or appraisals that demotivate employees and contain their efficiency. Organisations should keep the appraisal cycle in continuous motion and ensure that every effort is paid without delay instead of leading them into anxiety and uncertainty operationally and emotionally.

4 Every member of the organisation is well aware of the unprecedented crisis hovering in all parts of the country and thus accepts that there would be losing situation.

In such an instance, democratising salary cuts would be a safe policy. Salary reduction or fluctuation across the board rather than a selective group of employees would result in labour protest that would distort the work and productivity of a company. Moreover, the level of deduction should depend on criteria like rent, home needs, electricity bill, etc., and turning away from these would make employees lose fidelity in the organisation that would create more consequences than ever.

5 Behaviour of the leadership is one of the crucial factors that keeps an organisation strong and healthy. So, enable your managers to be guides.

This would not only help them augur their managerial skills during a crisis but will also help them execute more effectively when the normal phase starts in the future. Working remotely would provide room for disagreements and challenging work schedule, but positive conversations and regular updates from employees would help managers to cope up with the situation and perform well.

6 Business is not a static activity, but a dynamic process.

Organisations might have plans to launch different projects and deals to increase growth, but they too involve a lot of expenditure. Since there is an epidemic that is on the rise, the projects or deals of the company can be deferred to a future date or digital meetings can held between the vendors/distributor meet. This might reduce the cost to the company and thereby save employment by ceasing lay off plans. Senior management travel should optimise digital modes of communication during the lockdown. Employers should be reminded that while scrutinising budget, they are dealing with people and their livelihoods, and thus layoffs should be the last resort.

7 Employers or firms should defer some payments with the consent of suppliers and vendors.

Some payments can be broken down into instalments spread over time. They should promise employees that accrued leaves or bonuses would be paid on a future date.

8 In an uncertain situation where pandemic like COVID-19 is causing high health strains, employers should avail medical claim through insurance policies to their employees.

If this is still not done, they need to act fast on revamping policies to combat the crisis. This not only helps to secure businesses but also employees. To building a systematic resilience is only possible by a good managerial pipeline. Confidence building measures is one of the vital aspects of good leadership in organisations. Hence organisations can play a strong role by building security and fairness in the mind of employees by collectively working towards solving the crisis. This perhaps may not only strengthen an employer-employee relationship but heal the humanity overall.

The entire world is going through unprecedented crisis due to corona virus outbreak and spread. The entire Global economy is impacted and can take upto 2 years to recover, as per a UN report. In such a situation, it is but natural that businesses will be under pressure to maintain business continuity while dealing with budget cuts. The question is, are people related cuts the only answer? And even if there have to be cuts to the HR budget, does it have to be in terms of lay off and pay cuts.

The current situation is forcing us to think differently and and in an innovative manner. The current lockdown has forced businesses to take on “work from home” for a prolonged period, something which has never been experienced before. In a way it has led to savings in terms of overhead costs, travel, electricity etc. Organisations have adapted, keeping the safety and well-being of their employees in focus, and are driving business while everyone works from home. It’s not been easy, both for employers and for employees, and it has taken some getting used to. Some initiatives that can help organisations during this phase are being shared below-

The above information has been shared by Ms. Sonica Aron, Founder of Marching Sheep

Marching Sheep is a boutique HR advisory firm, which works in the areas of Diversity and Inclusion, Organisation Design Consulting, Talent Assessment, Management, and Coaching. Marching Sheep aims to help organisations to become more profitable and productive through a range of interventions and assist women workforce to become successful across industries.