Baptista Sarah Gebu’s thoughts … The future of work capsules: The role of the HR department during this Coronavirus pandemic

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Last week I commenced a series entitled “without decisive action Ghana will be sleepwalking into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties – which was addressing amongst other things the ten recommendations put forward by the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work.  According to the report, a universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers’ rights, an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces were among the recommendations. I touched on preparedness for working remotely.

A question that came up was how office files could be accessed. Quite a number of organizations resort to the use of shared drives or Google drive for users of gmail accounts, one drive for users of outlook, to share point and projects. Aside from the Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp proposed, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting and several others are available for use.

The COVID-19 pandemic is giving us a view of what the future of work could look like with technology being the driver. As most businesses are possibly thinking about the uncertainties this situation presents to them and government as well, on the other hand telecommunication companies are recording high volumes of sales in business as Internet and voice appear to be the most sought after services in this period. The future of work is geared toward the collapse of businesses that will not adjust to the pending change.

The human resources department’s role during this coronavirus crisis is to protect employees and maintain the business at the same time. Employee wellbeing and protection from the virus should be the key focus, while ensuring that business operations are continued amid knowing how to keep workflow is essential.

  • Create awareness about the symptoms and discourage face to face meetings.
  • Encourage employees to go for check-ups and not show up at work if an employee detects possible coronavirus symptoms. Most employees will take advantage of this – but don’t worry, prevention is better than cure.
  • Create awareness about good hygiene precautions and adherence.
  • Provide safety equipment or materials for frontline employees to include masks among others.
  • Multi-employee workstations should be cleansed each time a shift ends
  • Encourage the use of disposable cutlery.
  • Reduce travel to the barest minimum if it can’t be avoided.
  • Ask employees to eat healthily and build their immune systems.
  • Encourage the use of soft-copy documents instead of paper hard-copies.
  • Clean company shuttle buses often.
  • Replace open buffet lunches with packed lunches.
  • Introduce e-learning across the board instead of class base training.
  • Management should encourage compulsory quarantines for all staff travelling back from the states to Ghana.
  • HR is expected to propose remote work arrangements, encourage vacations and use of annual leave, and recommend e-based solutions to ensure social distancing and reduce face to face interaction.
  • Finally, HR is expected to manage employment cost by freezing non-critical hires, postpone salary increase conversations, and reduce headcounts in situations where the world economy may have to prepare for the worst by having plans in place in case of a possible shut-down. China is recovering, and as such serves as a great motivation.

What does social distancing mean? Social distancing is reminding us of reducing contact between people to slow the spread of infections or diseases. The practice will ensure that we put in place measures that will limit large gatherings of people. Hence, we have been asked to cancel events and mass gathering. These are what we need to avoid in this moment – concerts, theatre outings, athletic events, crowded retail stores, mass transit systems.

Let’s us exercise caution when travelling if need be. It’s safe to do these – talk a walk, go for a hike, play in your yard, read a book, listen to good music, have a family game night, go for a drive, group video chats, stream a favourite show or organize a watch-party online.

As the greater majority of the world is currently working from home, what do you envisage could be the challenge should our iInternet services around the world just suddenly go off? Our way of life would change. Most churches have created online platforms where members can give offerings or return their titles. Most jobs will be created online as human interactions are minimised.

As put forward by Dr. Bright Kumordzi in his LinkedIn comment of the article, the world either prepares for this or perishes with it. Dr. Salia Samuel in a Facebook comment gave a nice summary: with almost the whole world currently working from home, it would be like lights have been switched off for the world should the Internet service around the world suddenly go off. The world is unprepared for a crisis like this. Though will be gradual, our way of life will change eventually.

In anticipation of avoiding a lack of grasp for a similar situation to this, nations will be become inward-looking and human physical interactions will reduce as jobs will be moved online. The civilization we created for ourselves will then threaten the very community systems we grew up in. This will be re-enforced by our liking for the fourth revolution, artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things.

I was finding out what we are afraid of about the coronavirus pandemic in a poll I created on twitter (@SarahTista). Out of the total number of persons who cast their votes, we have 51% being afraid of misleading media updates; 24% being afraid of the fear and panic of new cases; and another 24% voted ‘I don’t want to die’. You too can vote and share to enable us know what phobias we are nursing in this moment.

In the year 2001, it was anthrax we were afraid of; then SARS in 2003; Bird flu in 2005; 2009 was the swine flu; Ebola in 2014; ISIS and Disney measles in 2015; zika virus for 2016 – and now coronavirus. This COVID-19 pandemic – though a treat to human existence – in a way also offers some merits. Let’s think of these:

  • Politicians and rulers now think of their constituents and citizens amid this pandemic, and all are making efforts to come out with workable solutions to curb spread of the virus as the main issue here is the infection rate and not death rates. This is because every year around 1 million people die of flu. Fear of this virus is the real problem, not the virus itself. Coronavirus is now making us stay at home, living simple lives. It has brought back humanity.
  • Countries now realize the importance of God. People realize God heals and not medical doctors.  Coronavirus is pushing people to prayers. Humans are now worshipping God rather than progress, wealth and technology.  It has also brought back people to their Creator and to their morals.
  • It helps us appreciate the phrase ‘the word is a global village”. It is reminding us that we are all connected and that anything that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us of how precious our health is how constant neglect of it can cause our very own lives.
  • Our world has become very materialist, but coronavirus has reminded us of the essential basic necessities of life we need, food, water, proper medical care and shelter.
  • It has taught as great lessons making all know that no country is above the other and can operate as an island which is self-dependent in all things. The interesting bit now is that most people of colour even want to come and stay in Africa to enjoy nature and natural sun shine and most blacks don’t recognize traveling and bragging about travels to foreign countries anymore. When you try, you are requested to quarantine or self-isolate for 14 days. J J
  • It has brought families together. It has stopped people from eating dead and forbidden animals. It has taught humans how to properly sneeze, yawn and cough. It has closed down bars, night clubs, brothels and casinos. Not forgetting to mention churches, schools, markets places and many more other places of work.
  • It has brought down interest rates. So far it has moved one third of military and governments expenditure to health care which hitherto will be so difficult to be done by most countries. It is forcing authorities to look at its prisons and prisoners. And it’s teaching all humanity to learn to eat to build our immune system instead of depending on junk foods.

Focus is a very powerful thing. It works as a magnet that is why we get what we focus on, so let’s focus on what we want to get: God healing our land and restoring the world economies’ back on truck. Once we focus on the numbers and the dead and all the negative news of the pandemic, we keep attracting same.  Let’s know that coronavirus has no power expect the power we give it by focus and acceptance. The media has an agenda setting theory and keeps setting the agenda for all of us to follow. Let us create our own focus through the power of positive thinking.

We have all been flooded with media updates about the COVID-19 pandemic and the interesting bit of these entire puzzle is that “this too shall pass” as the sky is not falling. This is because every year, around 1 million people die of flu. FEAR of this virus is the real problem, not the virus itself.  Looking at the facts of this virus and comparing it to the annual Flu; Sars; Asian Bird Flu; Swine Flu; and the Spanish Flu of early 1900’s, COVID-19 spreads the same way aside the infection rate as the flu or common cold. This means that about the same amount of people will probably get this virus.

According to worldometers.info, the coronavirus analytics are currently recording 392,407 confirmed cases and 17,148 deaths from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak as of March 24, 2020, 11:06 GMT. This number is growing daily and stands at 3, 245,791 confirmed cases, 229,220 deaths and 1,016,442 recoveries as at today April 30, 2020 at 12:00 GMT. The virus is spreading rapidly in many countries. The true figure for the number of people with coronavirus is thought to be much higher, as many of those with milder symptoms have not been tested and counted.

In Italy, the average age of those who have died is 82. And those people were also sick before they got the virus. This is the same all around the world; underlying sicknesses are causing the most deaths. This is extremely important. Those who are dying from this virus are: very old; currently sick; have a suppressed or weakened immune system due to chemo, cancer or prescription drugs; and/or are very heavy smokers.  Look at how many people die each year of heart disease, cancer, and accidents…tens of millions.

The number of new cases in China and South Korea have been going down every day for many days. And the number of deaths in those countries have been going down daily.  This means that the death rate of this virus in those countries could be lower than that of the normal annual flu.

It appears the media is hyping this in a way that is extremely misleading.  The good news is this. Look at all the people, including ‘famous’ people that have tested positive for the virus. They all say the same thing: “I felt a little sick, like a cold, for a few days but now I am fine”; or “I felt like I had a mild flu, but that only lasted less than a week, and now I feel fine”. The majority of people (98%) will only show mild cold-like or flu-like symptoms and probably not even realize they have the virus. This too shall pass.

Consider building up your immune system and keeping it strong. Be positive and don’t panic. The way this is being reported is misleading. The facts are being ignored. You might remember how the media spread so much fear around the world about HIV and AIDS, SARS, Asian Bird Flu, and Swine Flu. Go back and look at what they predicted…hundreds of millions will die! None of those apocalyptic predictions came true.

Remember, every year around one million people around the world die from a normal flu. Keeping a positive attitude helps keep your immune system strong as well.  The big question that should be asked is: “Is this virus deadly?” No one is asking this question or explaining why we all should be so deathly afraid of ‘catching the virus’. The infection rate is what is very, very, very worrying.

According to Kelvin Trudeau, the media is creating an illusion that if you get this virus you have been given a death sentence. This is a lie. Let’s not be creating mass fear, panic and hysteria. We are being misled by the mainstream media. We are being lied to by ‘omission’ of key facts.

Think about these questions:

    1. How come the media has stopped mentioning the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths in China and South Korea? Because the facts don’t fit the story they want to tell. In both countries, the numbers of new cases are going down. And the numbers of deaths are going down. This is very good news, but not being reported.
    2. How come the media never talks about the common denominators of those people around the world who have died of the virus? Because the facts don’t fit the story they want to tell you. The facts are: those who have died are either very old; have a compromised, suppressed immune system due to chemo, illness or prescription drugs; have respiratory issues such as asthma, or from very heavy smoking. This is also very good news. It means that unless you fall into this very small category, you have an almost zero chance of death. And if you do fall into that category, the fatality rate is still very low (no one knows for sure, but the reports are between .05% and 3%. While that is a big spread, it is still a very, very, low number).
    3. Should you be afraid of ‘catching’ this virus? No, you should never be afraid. Fear itself will suppress your immune system. You should be concerned only if you are over 70 years old and are sick; are currently ill; are taking prescription drugs that as a side-effect increase your risk of infection; are or have been a heavy smoker; have asthma; are on chemo or recently had chemo; have a compromised, suppressed or weakened immune system for any reason; or are grossly overweight. People who fall into these categories are more likely to get the virus; and if you do get the virus, you are more likely to have more severe symptoms. It does not mean you will die. Again, the fatality rate even among these high risks groups is still very low.
    4. What if I don’t fall into the above high risk categories, shouldn’t I still be concerned about getting the virus? 95% of people who have been ‘confirmed’ to have contracted the virus all had only mild symptoms. Only about 5% of confirmed cases show ‘severe symptoms. These are the facts and this is very good news. And, the news gets even better. Consider that so few people have been tested. There are probably many, many more people around the world that already ‘got the virus’ or currently have the virus, but have such mild symptoms that they don’t even know it and will never get tested to find out. If you add all those people into the numbers, the ‘fatality rate’ is even much lower than the already low fatality rate being quoted.
    5. What is the fatality rate? With normal healthy people…almost zero. With those who fall into the “high risk categories”, the numbers coming out from various world health organization vary from as low as .05% to as high as 3%. No one knows for sure. We do have the number of people who have died from the virus, but we don’t have the total number of people who actually have or have had the virus because of lack of testing. As the number of confirmed cases goes up, the fatality rate goes down. Good news. But as more testing is done, more confirmed cases will be announced – thus making the fatality rate lower. This should be reported by the press as great news! But it won’t. They will make it appear as horrible news and try to create even more panic.
    6. What can I do so that I am less likely to get the virus, and if I do the symptoms will be mild? Improve your immune system. Here’s what others are doing: Taking fruit with Vitamin C daily or supplements; going out in the sun for more vitamin D3; eating raw garlic daily (because of the allicin in garlic which is anti-viral); and walking for several hours a day outside, praying and meditating daily, exercising daily, laughing out loud very hard! This is great to reduce stress and strengthen your immune system. Many are eating healthy foods (no fast food or junk food), and drinking plenty of pure water to meet their required water volumes. Avoiding public gatherings, observing social distancing, not shaking hands, observing strict hygiene, wearing the masks, staying at home if need be, and many more as advised.

The sky is not falling.  In America for instance, there is a major problem that ‘they’ are not telling you. America has the highest percentage of its population taking prescription drugs on a regular basis of any other country in the world, and also have most people taking prescription drugs on a regular basis. If you are over 60 years old in America, you take an average of 5 prescription drugs on a regular, routine basis.

One of the major side-effects of many of these drugs is they ‘will increase your risk of infection’. Just watch the drug advertisements on TV. Almost every one of them says “taking this drug will increase your risk of infection”.  This is because the drugs suppress your immune system. The prescription drugs weaken your immune system. This means that America has tens of millions of people that are highly susceptible to catching this virus (getting an infection) as do other countries.

It also means that these same people, because their immune systems are so weak, will develop severe symptoms. The severe symptoms include having a hard time breathing. This is because this virus attacks the respiratory system. When this happens, the patient needs to be in a hospital and on a ventilator until their body fights off the infection (virus) and the person recovers.  But, because of the prescription drugs that so many have taken which virtually ‘wipes out’ your immune system, it may be hard to recover.  This is the big secret about America and some other countries that is not being told.

For Ghana, it will be great that we continue to eat our rich natural foods and build our immune system. Natural oranges and citrus fruits are everywhere; why depend on vitamin C tablets? That is the power of choice. You have to decide. Whatever decision you take, remember it comes with a consequence.

If spread of the virus goes up dramatically, then countries most hit will not have enough hospital beds and ventilators to handle the massive numbers of people who are experiencing severe symptoms. This is the big problem.

Last year, 2 million people on the continent of Africa died due to starvation because of a locust infestation. No one talked about that.  Consider that the worldwide panic about the coronavirus does not agree with the facts.  But people have been brainwashed and hypnotised by the misleading media. This means that most people have been misled to believe that if you get the coronavirus you will die. This is false.

The actual numbers are available from the various Health Organizations around the world, including the UN’s World Health Organization and Ghana’s Health Service. When you simply look at the real number of deaths and the real number of people that have or had the virus (much, much higher than is being reported), you will see in black and white that this is not a deadly virus and has a normal fatality rate for a ‘virus’ or when compared to a flu.

Remember, all you have to fear is fear itself. All is well; and most importantly, this ‘event’ will be the trigger for a better world for more and more people. Head of the #Hantavirus – could this be the new buzz? Believe in the owner and creator of the universe. The only true God who owns the universe and has all the solutions there are to it. Be safe my friend. Practice social distancing and follow all the prescribed solutions. In all, don’t forget to eat well to boost your immune system. Please stay well and safe.

Your contribution to the discourse with the hashtag #thefutureofworkcapsules #fowc will be very helpful.

>>>the author is a human resource professional with a broad generalist background. Building a team of efficient & effective workforce is her business. Affecting lives is her calling!  She is an HR Generalist, strategic planner, innovative, professional connector and a motivator. You can reach her via e-mail on [email protected]  You can follow this conversation on Linked-In: Baptista Sarah Gebu and on twitter @SarahTista.  Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313. Follow the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules  #FoWC

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