Ask HR: Coronavirus Edition

Have a question about HR, culture, benefits, compliance, payroll, or anything related to the workplace? We’ve got answers! 

We shared your hard-hitting questions with our team of all-star HR professionals who bring years of industry knowledge to the table. 

This week, we focused on the HR impact of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19. A number of leaders from our People Team joined together to answer your burning questions about the virus and its impact on your business.

Have an Ask HR question of your own? Email us at or fill out the form at the bottom of this page! 

Without further ado, here’s this week’s Ask HR submission:


“Transitioning to working from home, sheltering in place, schools closing, uncertainty about the future—obviously, this is a huge period of transition for all of us. How can we keep employees productive and calm and support them during this challenging time?” 


Ryan MacPherson, Learning Manager: Your best bet is to try to continue “business as usual” while providing as much support to the team as possible. Over-communication is your best bet —from leadership, management, and between team members—to make sure everyone is aligned on expectations and what is happening across the organization. Regular All Hands meetings, informal team stand-ups, and virtual happy hours are all ways to keep employees connected and aligned on the path ahead.

In such uncertain times, people’s personal situations are subject to change drastically, specifically if they have children or at-risk family members. Given most kids are out of school, you could potentially explore more flexible working hours for parents/care providers so employees can still work but don’t have to worry about sacrificing the well-being/education of their child. If you offer an Employee Assistance Program, make sure employees are aware of that service and know how to leverage it if they need it.

What are some ways we can keep our employees connected and engaged while everyone is working from home?” 


Matt Zambrio, HR Business Partner: Namely’s people team has been having an optional 30-minute huddle every morning to connect and see how people are doing. We make sure to set time aside to talk about things other than work—gossiping about TV shows, sharing photos of our pets, etc. We’ve been talking about things we’ve been doing or considering doing to keep ourselves sane—one colleague is applying to foster a dog, and most of us have been taking daily walks to get some fresh air. 

At Namely, we’ve been running remote work training to assure employees can implement best WFH practices and managers know how to provide the support needed to make their teams successful. You could also encourage managers to share tips and tricks around what’s working for them to create a sense of camaraderie across the organization. Our marketing team starts each day by sharing a photo of their workspace and coffee mug to stay connected. We’ve also been offering virtual yoga sessions that focus on “office chair poses” so everyone can take a moment to breathe and find their zen amidst all this craziness. 

As a manager, I’ve been trying to connect with each employee every morning to make sure they are doing well and checking in to see if there is anything we can do to make this difficult time more palatable. 

Ultimately over-communication can be one of the best things that a manager, team, and organization can do to make sure people still feel connected and engaged. 

“What compliance issues do I need to be keeping in mind right now?”


Matt Zambrio, HR Business Partner: Leaves of absence are the top concern I’ve heard about. What do you do if someone can’t work because they are sick or have to take care of a sick family member? In most cases, the employee would qualify for disability or family medical leave. 

The other concern is what do you do with employees who are hourly, especially if they are unable to work remotely because their position requires them to come into the office? Each company will have to internally decide how to deal with this. 

Workplace accommodations are another hot topic. You might be on the hook for accommodating off-peak work hours if an employee has to handle childcare duties, or you might have to provide equipment if someone needs to work from home. Working from home from a couch may not be an issue for one day, but over the course of a 4-8 week period, the lack of a proper ergonomic setup can create pain and discomfort. Reminding employees about proper workspace setup and posture is crucial and can mitigate the effects of sitting in an uncomfortable position. You may want to consider purchasing equipment for employees or offering a WFH stipend so your employees can invest in a proper home office. 

Hours and overtime could potentially be a concern as well. For some employees, working from home may mean that they feel compelled to start work earlier, stay later, or work through lunch. Employees should be reminded that they still need to take their breaks and start and end their shift at the normal time unless they’ve gotten special approval from their manager. Encourage your employees to keep their routines, even when working from home, and encourage managers to set boundaries by not replying to emails after-hours and signing off at the end of the business day. That way, everyone will get the time away from work they need. 

“How are other companies approaching hiring right now? Should we be putting hiring on hold or switch to virtual interviews? Are you pushing start-dates or doing virtual onboarding? How can I optimize my candidate and new hire experience in these interesting times?”


Amy Roy, Head of People: Hiring needs really vary by organization. There are lots of industries that are slowing down, but there are also others (think Amazon) that are ramping up. For those who are cutting back, there is probably a small effort going on for key/critical positions. Organizations should be reviewing their open hire lists to decide what roles are a priority and what might need to be eliminated or at least put on hold. 

For onboarding, again it depends on the industry, delayed starts might be used as we understand greater impacts of business changes due to COVID-19. At Namely, we’ve moved to virtual onboarding. It takes some coordination with our IT team and a rethinking of content, but it is very do-able.


Paige Niewerth, Talent Acquisition Manager: Roles we are actively recruiting for have transitioned to fully virtual and remote Google Hangouts or Zooms. Maintaining an excellent candidate experience during the interview process is super important, so our recruiting team has prioritized over-communication with our candidates. We updated all of our candidate confirmation email templates and invites to explain the transition from in-person interviews to Google Hangouts or Zoom.

To make sure candidates are feeling totally supported throughout the hiring process, we are also syncing with them pre-interview (for prep purposes) and post-interview (for feedback and a check-in).

Internally, we also developed detailed process document guidelines for stakeholders and are relying heavily on personalized candidate Slack channels each day, so we can be in constant communication during a candidate’s interviews. 



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Topics: HR, Ask HR

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