In Case of Emergency, Put People First!

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

by Rene M. Gener, DPM

COVID-19 brought tough times to everyone. This respiratory disease is caused by the SARS-COVID-2 virus that has spread around the world, and as of this writing, there are already 188 countries affected (out of 195). The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of PANDEMIC and this has affected all aspects of our daily life, including mobility, food supplies, trade, tourism, travel and financial markets.

To reduce the impact of COVID-19 outbreak on businesses, workers, customers and the general stakeholders, a lot of companies have already taken tremendous efforts and steps to mitigate the circumstances. Various companies have updated their risk management plans to address the specific exposure, identified sources of exposure and means of transmissions. Employers do this to identify risk levels in workplaces and to determine the control measures necessary to implement.

The outbreak has already affected workplaces. Due to the absence of an immediate cure, and under conditions related to widespread person to person transmission, workplaces suffered the impacts of the pandemic in many circumstances. Ever since the government implemented the enhanced community quarantine, most industries suffered work stoppage. The supply chain experienced drastic changes and disruption, the need to supply food was heavily hampered and people panicked to store on their basic needs and medicine. Consumers resorted to hoarding and some risked exposure just to get hold of their basic needs. By then, suppliers find it difficult to address the demand of the market due to outright work stoppage. Shipments or deliveries of items are either delayed, if not outrightly cancelled due to the geographical lockdowns.

On the part of employees, most of them opted not to report for work for fear of getting the disease.

Given these challenges, many Human Resources Management practitioners, exercised discernment, wiser decision-making skills and extraordinary leadership in these unprecedented times. They showed flexibility in addressing the needs of their people, without being too technical in the extension of social safety nets. Valuing human dignity and a strong belief on people first was at the core of every leader’s decision.

Based on the poll survey conducted by PMAP’s Center for Research and Publications, various companies have exercised the following measures:

When asked what organizational measures were introduced after the declaration of an enhanced community quarantine, 81% of the companies adopted the work from home arrangement. There were organizations (39%) that provided shuttle services to employees who play a critical role in the continuity of operations. Others (36%) also introduced early pay out of the 13th month pay while some (32%) provided free meals to employees who are on duty.

Furthermore, there are companies that provided beyond what the government encouraged to do or called. Some good practices that are worth emulating are the following:

  1. Early release of the full month wages for the month of March

  2. Online delivery instruction to professional subjects

  3. Full wages regardless of employment status

  4. Full pay during enhanced community quarantine for those who are unable to work from home

  5. Transportation expenses are shouldered by the company for those who are required to work

  6. Provided hygiene kit such as masks, alcohol and vitamins

  7. Provided work from home allowance that covers electricity and internet

  8. Advance crediting of salary for the next pay period.

  9. Provided individualized tents with lockers as accommodations to employees in the worksite coupled with wifi connection and double the employee’s pay. Additionally, 150 employees were given food and toiletries.

  10. Provided additional medical assistance ranging from 100-100,000.

  11. Provided 50 kgs of rice

  12. Provided cash assistance ranging from 500-5,000 pesos.

  13. Provided regular updates that are accurate and how it made an impact on the organization.

  14. Extension of cash advances.

  15. Executive levels voluntarily rolled back pay to help alleviate business conditions and assist on the needs of the workforce.

  16. Provided individual rest areas in the workplace with air-conditioned facilities;

Moreover, many companies provided clear directions, confidence and assured employees by sending a strong message that safety, family’s overall health and well-being is deemed important than profit. To keep business continuity and make operations working, virtual meetings are being maximized. This is also a way of providing continuous engagement among employees.

It is also worth noting that conglomerates and other big establishments are all hands on deck to keep the society functioning. Hotel industries are offering free rooms for front liners. Select public and private organizations are trying its best to contribute to the greater good by providing services and operating 24/7. Big businesses are making its share to avert economic fallout. Some companies retooled their process by producing what is urgently needed by the health sector. For instance, there are companies that originally, were producing perfumes but have currently diverted operations in order to produce alcohol which is highly needed these days. Food stocks of commercial food establishments were donated to the frontliners and the poor. Mobile kitchens were set up for easy distribution and ensure that frontline workers get these in a timely manner. It is not only people practitioners who are standing up to the challenge. There are civil society organizations that are doing their share. Bikers club lent theirs bikes to healthworkers; students and medical interns gathered together to make improvised face shields; licensed chemists voluntarily formulated a 70% alcohol solution out of their own pockets and technicians provided hand washing stations. There are households that provided food and water to the public servants manning our check points and streets. Professional athletes are also doing their share by paying the staff affected by the league shutdown.

Reflecting on these practices, we can get a glimpse that no matter how big or small an organization is, showing the true meaning of MALASAKIT and BAYANIHAN in times of crisis is inherent among us all.

Indeed, it is in times of crisis that our capacity to act humanely and with dignity is put to a test. It is my hope that we, as individuals, would always decide and act by putting people first.

A snappy salute to all the medical frontliners for their dedication and sacrifice. You have made a good imprint in the history and may all your deeds be remembered by the generations to come. Mabuhay kayo!

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