Dr Abdool-Richards: HR managers were key in covid fight

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

HR TALKS: From left, Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, Soejen Tjon Atsoi, Winifred Redan-Snijders, both of the Central Bank, and Merva Mallalieu of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, speak following an HR professionals conference on Thursday at the Central Bank in Port of Spain. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE –

PRINCIPAL Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards is calling on organisations to look differently at their human resource teams as she said they were key in the national fight against covid19.

She also called for more collaboration among HR professionals to ensure there are safe spaces and a community of support for people in workplaces.

Speaking at the annual Conference of Human Resource Managers, Richards said HR managers were key in the fight against the virus, being part of many strategies and policies put in place to fight the virus.

“Our HR practitioners are tasked with finding ingenious solutions to help employees cope with the complexities that were brought around by this extraordinary health crisis.

“There was no timeline, there was a lot of uncertainty; they are now the ones who have to look at the corporate guidelines and speak to corporate communications. They would have to do that on a Saturday evening and get it out by Monday morning,” Abdool-Richards said.

She added that HR managers had to show strategic ability and resilience during the pandemic, but they were managing with trauma and stress long before covid19.

She said they were the people who dealt with industrial relations personnel and had to bring bad news about incentive packages and restructuring exercises.

HR professionals also had to liaise with employees with regard to upskilling and retraining, which Abdool-Richards said was in itself, a challenge especially during the pandemic.

She said HR managers dealt with multiple categories of leave, employees who were afraid or uncertain about the spread of the virus especially at times where they may be exposed, mental health, burnout and other psychological issues.

The medic asked: “Who is really there to support HR managers? Who collaborates with them?”

“Our HR practitioners had to absorb all these emotions but they have relatives who had covid too; their children also had to undergo remote or online schooling. Yet they still came out and risked being exposed to keep our organisations running.”

She said the pandemic gave corporations a chance to revise its human resource policies and communicate better with staff.

“We need to think differently about your HR team,” Abdool Richards said. “What support do they need? Do they feel safe? Is there a safe space for them to come and speak with you, to say ‘I am tired. I need a break.’ Because HR managers did not get much vacation. We need to do collaborative research, we need to create a safe space within our organisations and we need to build a community of support.”