If you’re worried about the impact the coronavirus will have on your workplace and business, you’re not alone: 91% of HR professionals say their employees are concerned about the effects of the coronavirus. Less than a third (29%) say their company is very prepared to deal with the impact of the virus, and more than a third (36%) fear layoffs due to business slowdown.

That’s according to CareerArc’s Coronavirus and Workforce Preparedness Survey conducted between March 4-13, 2020–a pivotal period in which the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic on March 11. We surveyed 221 HR practitioners in the U.S. on their plans, responses, and expectations about the effects of the coronavirus on their workforce. We found HR professionals are taking quick action to manage business impacts—but largely feel underprepared to deal with the fallout.

Coronavirus concerns are top of mind for HR professionals

  • 91% of HR professionals are concerned about coronavirus: 54% are somewhat concerned, while 37% are very concerned.

Only a third of U.S. companies are very prepared to address coronavirus concerns

  • Only 29% of HR professionals say their companies are very prepared to deal with the impact of the coronavirus; 52% report their companies are somewhat prepared.
  • Only 45% HR professionals say their organizations have a plan to respond to or prepare for a coronavirus outbreak that they’ve communicated to their staff. 19% have a plan but have not yet communicated it, while 27% are working on a plan.
  • The number of HR professionals who reported they have communicated a plan to their staff rose from 40% in the first week of March to 55% in the second week, reflecting that HR professionals are quickly stepping up efforts to address the impacts of the coronavirus on their workplace.

Remote work is an impossible or ineffective option for many American workers

  • 41% of HR professionals say less than half of the workforce will be able to adequately perform their duties remotely.

HR’s biggest concern: sick employees coming into work

CareerArc coronavirus and workforce preparedness survey results
  • 85% of HR professionals were somewhat or very concerned about sick employees coming to work and infecting colleagues. 
  • Only 36% of HR professionals were very confident their employees will take sick leave when appropriate. Half (50%) said they were only somewhat confident, and 11% were not at all confident.

In addition, HR professionals were somewhat or very concerned about:

  • Increased absenteeism due to employee and/or family illness: 76%
  • Decrease in business productivity: 75%
  • Continuity of business operations for existing employees: 73%
  • Decrease in business revenue: 72%
  • Continuity of hiring / recruiting: 52%
  • Employees discriminating against colleagues with the virus: 41%
  • Layoffs due to business slowdown: 36%

Results show that the first week of March, preparation emphasized public health reminders and taking preventative measures against the spread of the COVID-19 in the workplace. The second week of March showed a spike in preparations for a possible new reality–having more employees work remotely and significantly limiting business travel.

By the first week the most preparation HR professionals had taken was sending reminders about hygiene and limiting in-person contact (83%), followed by purchasing supplies such as hand sanitizer (61%), and updating travel policies (55%). During that first week, only 40% had created or updated remote work plans and policies.

By the second week, the areas that saw an increase in the share of HR professionals reporting having completed were:

  • Updating travel policies: Reported by 55% of HR professionals in the first week, jumping to 80% the second week.
  • Creating/updating remote work plans and policies: Reported by 40% of HR professionals in the first week, rising to 60% the second week.
  • Obtaining/updating online meeting technology and policies: Reported by 39% of HR professionals in the first week, rising to 57% the second week.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by CareerArc from March. 4-13, 2020, among 221 human resources professionals. For complete survey methodology, please contact CareerArc at media@careerarc.com. To address HR concerns around the coronavirus crisis, CareerArc will be holding a one-hour live panel discussion and Q&A with HR leader and #HRSocialHour Podcast host Jon Thurmond, employment attorney Kate Bischoff, and outplacement veteran Caroline Vernon. Join us on April 1 at 11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET for the live chat. Reserve your seat now.

The views expressed within this publication are those of the individual authors writing in their individual capacities only – not those of their respective employers. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this site are hereby expressly disclaimed. The content on this posting is provided “as is” and no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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