A Global Tour: How HR Teams Around the World are Handling the Pandemic

By Suzanne Lucas, The Evil HR Lady, on October 6, 2020

You know how companies are responding to COVID-19 in your area, but this is a pandemic that affected the entire world. Well, apparently, there are island nations (like Tonga, Samoa, and the Pitcairn Islands) that have escaped the virus.

But, the rest of the world had to battle this. What is it doing to business? How are HR people around the globe coping?close up of businessman hand showing texture the world with digital social media network diagram concept Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Well, the honest answer is that COVID-stress has gotten to every HR and employee relations department in the world.

We worry about our employees getting sick, getting everyone paid, updating policies and procedures and battling bureaucrats and recalcitrant employees no matter what language we’re speaking.

Starting in Switzerland

In Switzerland, where I’m currently sitting, it’s pretty much business as usual. My canton requires masks inside while the neighboring canton does not. Early on in the pandemic, when everyone stayed at home as much as possible, the government reminded employers that it was their responsibility to pay for internet access if they wanted their employees to work from home! 

While this isn’t always a requirement in the United States, it may be in your state--and if your employees are low wage earners, make sure the cost of their internet doesn’t drop their pay to below minimum wage, or you’ll run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act!

The best bet is to pay (or at least contribute) to your employees’ internet costs if they work from home.

Prepping for Risk in the U.K.

In the U.K, as in many countries, the government has loans, grants, and tax relief available for businesses and money available for the struggling self-employed. 

Jane Rawden, HR director for a restaurant chain, Bistrot Pierre, says they started prepping and creating mitigation strategies way back in January--long before anybody in Europe was shutting down. When they shut down in March, Rawden focused on communications to keep things going the best she could.

They are back open today, with a smaller workforce and six fewer restaurants, but advanced planning and focused communication kept them afloat.

Delivering for DHL 

German-based delivery giant DHL delivers to the world--North Korea included (although with “restrictions”). With a global workforce and a need for constant communication among clients and countries, Covid hit DHL with significant challenges. 

While some employees could work at home, most people have to be at work every day physically when you’re delivering packages. Their HR team focused on the health and safety of employees.

According to the Top Employers Institute, DHL France used physical barriers and other hygiene methods to keep employees safe. And like the UK restaurant chain, HR focused on communication to keep employees up to date.

Reopening in India

In India, Dr. Nirav Mandir, Chief Human Capital Officer for Shree Ramkrishna Exports Pvt. Ltd. (SRK) writes that one of the things he learned from the lockdown was the concept of homogeneity. 

He says, “This lockdown has taught us many distinct things but the most admirable thing for me was the sense of homogeneity. During the lockdown, starting from the wealthiest man to the lowest-earning member was leaving with the same sentiment of being caged into their respective home just to be away from this contagious virus.”

This opened his eyes to the need for economic steadiness as India re-opens. There’s been an enormous change due to the crisis, and HR needs to lead. Rigor and dedication, he says, are required for people to leave their houses and return to work. He advocates for structure and guidance from HR to lead this effort.

Hacking for Good in Japan and Malaysia

And maybe the most direct response to the Corona crisis from HR comes from an HR tech company in Japan and Malaysia: Grooves, which makes an engineer recruiting platform called Forkwell.

Rather than just focus on their own company, Grooves did what all good HR people do: look out for the good of as many people as possible. They held a hackathon to help find technological solutions to Covid-19. That’s powerful pandemic thinking -- crowdsource the collective genius for the good of the world. 

HR and ER: Leading Around the World

No matter where we go in the world, HR and employee relations lead the way when it comes to helping people through crises. Whether it’s communicating clearly and frequently or holding a hackathon, HR wants what is best for everyone.

Shutdowns, re-openings, spikes and new rules are now old hat to HR and ER now. Employees around the globe need support. Managers throughout the world need guidance. No matter what (or where) they are, HR is there.

I hope you enjoyed our global tour. If you’d like a tour of how HR Acuity can help you document, track and analyze your COVID-related issues, please visit us at www.hracuity.com/demo.

Suzanne Lucas, The Evil HR Lady
Suzanne Lucas, The Evil HR Lady

Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She's sure not evil. She's super nice! Learn more about her at www.evilhrlady.org and email her directly for decidedly unevil advice.

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