In these unprecedented times of a world pandemic, our professional and personal lives have changed drastically in the last few weeks. No longer are we able to have face-to-face interactions with our co-workers, friends and extended family members.  We are now faced with a new normal, and with that comes new challenges.

At the end of last year, we presented what we anticipated would be the Top 10 HR challenges to be ready for in 2020. Yet only few months into the new year, so much has changed. With the new way of working, we are facing an entirely new set of HR challenges:

Complying with Federal, State and Local laws – New York State recently issued an Emergency COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave retroactively to January 1, 2020. As of April 1, it became secondary to the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). FFCRA was designed to provide additional extended sick pay and to expand FMLA to employees impacted by COVID-19 for employers with 500 or fewer employees. Most recently, the Federal government approved the CARES Act to provide financial relief to businesses, individuals, public health, education and state/local governments. HR professionals must quickly understand what each of these acts means for employers and employees, and assist management with implementing these policies.

Developing employee handbooks & managing employee leave – Having an employee handbook has become even more important as businesses are having to terminate and/or furlough employees. Many employers are also having to establish and implement remote work polices for the first time.  Many of these new realities forced upon business owners and HR professionals were inconceivable just weeks ago. FFCRA alone has made managing employee leave for many HR professionals a new and a cumbersome job requirement.

Preventing security and data breaches – Now that businesses have been forced to have employees work remotely, the need for employees to access company files has ramped up. This results in the need for additional training, increased online security and oversight.

Employee drug use – Although employee drug use may not typically be at the top of an HR professional’s list of challenges, employees are enduring new and profound amounts of stress not previously experienced. When stressed financially, mentally, emotionally or physically, employees that otherwise may not have abused alcohol or drugs may turn to these means for temporary relief. It is important for HR professionals to promote their Employer Assistance Program (EAP) to provide support and resources to their workforce.

Preparing for workplace violence – Workplace violence has also probably fallen back on the list of priorities for HR professionals; however, there are many frustrated employees with a lot of extra time. Workplace violence can come in the form of sabotage to a business’ propriety information and reputation. It is important for businesses to remain vigilant as stress levels for essential, on-site employees will be at an all-time high and can lead to physical and verbal altercations.

Understanding workforce planning – Workforce planning has probably taken on a greater sense of urgency with economically induced employee terminations and/or furloughs. It may be necessary for leadership to receive additional training on how best to manage remote teams. Now more than ever it is important that businesses are staffed with employees that are essential for the company to remain viable entities. Contingency planning has become imperative for essential businesses that may have employees that need to take leave or become sick.

Building and maintaining a diverse workforce – Due to the rapid onset of the COVID-19 world pandemic many employers are downsizing, while others are looking to fill positions immediately.  In the haste to add new employees quickly, many are most likely doing so with minimal consideration given to diversity. However, employers should strive to maintain a diverse workforce.  

Offering the right employee benefits – Maintaining employees’ benefits has also taken on new challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many employers have been forced to terminate/furlough employees, many employers have expressed the desire to continue to cover employees on their group health and ancillary plans. Fortunately, most health insurance carriers have allowed employers to keep furloughed employees temporarily on their medical plans and/or allow terminated employees that are rehired to waive their new hire waiting periods. Depending on the number of employees, this could become a recordkeeping nightmare. Some insurance carriers are also allowing employers to add lower cost  medical plans off renewal.  

Build a strong culture – With all non-essential employees working remotely and no face-to-face professional or personal interaction, building and maintaining a strong company culture and morale will be one of the biggest challenges for HR professionals. Employers have had to resort to virtual meetings and happy hours to maintain a cohesive and connected workforce. Although employees may be captive due to the job market created by the COVID-19 pandemic, how employers handle it now will dictate whether employees will choose to stay or leave once the crisis passes.

The effort required of HR professionals to meet these new challenges has increased exponentially in a very short period of time. It is likely that HR professionals are going to continue to face more challenges ahead, but we are all in this together. If you have any questions, feel free to email us at