Fear: Is everything going to be OK?

A journey through COVID-19

April 9, 2020
 

 

 

Jill M. Hemphill

Jill M. Hemphill

Tax Partner, Global Reward Services, KPMG LLP

+1 212-954-1942

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

Senior Manager, Tax, Global Mobility Services, KPMG US

+1 408-367-2787

Achim Mossmann

Achim Mossmann

Principal, Tax, KPMG LLP (US)

+1 212-954-6812

Katherine Avery

Katherine Avery

Principal, Global Mobility Services, KPMG US

+1 408-367-2237

Is everything going to be OK?

We previously covered our journey through the first stage of this situation, grasping the situation, or shock, and how to move  the global mobility needs of an organization through it. Our next stop along the COVID-19 curve is a fear stage. Fear often stems from a lack of control and needing to navigate the unknown. In the current global situation and economic downturn there can be  feelings of fear.

Much of personal fear is triggered by a lack of information and control and, at the same time, navigating impactful decisions for family, business, and oneself. In a corporate state of fear, employees seek assurance from their company to include a focus on their well-being and their ongoing safety. And, employee-centric companies are stepping up to the need.

At this stage in the curve, there are still many questions from employees and the business that mobility teams need to answer. By now you may have categorized the myriad of questions that have come your way, which enables you to bring order to the confusion.

 

Moving forward: Creating a sense of comfort

As a mobility and/or HR department, you’ve already been answering immediate questions and providing information based on your current disaster or business continuity response plan. Moving through this stage, it’s critical to begin providing  targeted and specific information and helping your business and employees feel a sense of certainty and control, especially as facts and information continue to emerge or change.

You are moving from responding on a case-by-case basis to a structured communication approach. You will also leverage multifunctional response teams that include internal stakeholders and external partners.

As part of creating emotional and psychological comfort, the fear stage relies heavily on corporate knowledge as well as cross-functional connection across your organization and at your key vendors to provide targeted resources that create education, understanding, and some semblance of comfort and reassurance.

As a mobility or HR professional, you are on the front line acting not only as a business resource but sometimes as a counselor and personal adviser. The reality is, while you’re helping allay the fears of others, your team members may have fears of their own.

As a team, this is also a time to work closely together to ensure you have the comfort and reassurance you all need to be resources for each other. Airline safety briefings say it best: you have to put the oxygen mask on first before you can help others.

This information, with the following checklist, will help you move through Fear and prepare you for the next phase, Crisis Management.

Business Continuity Checklist

People

  • Proactive outreach with updates and real-time information
  • Make resources available to mobile workers; information provides reassurance
  • Begin crafting themed messaging for employees that fill gaps in your current emergency response communication plan
  • Provide virtual work options and technologies to employees so that they can continue to work
  • Create and communicate a standardized intake process to support employee issues
  • Communicate what services and programs are available to support employee mental health during this period
  • Remember: Connecting and communicating is critical at this time

Mobility

  • Reach out to your business stakeholders regularly and often to ensure level of communication is sufficient
  • Establish a cross-functional COVID-19 response team with internal and external partners
  • Consider your communication channels available (e.g.,: mobility portal, email, document repository, etc.) and  ensure regular updates
  • Drive a sense of calm with your team by ensuring they have all the resources they need
  • Given current high demand and potential absenteeism, consider if you need to supplement resources
  • Discuss business continuity with HR, Finance, Tax, Legal, vendor ecosystem, and business partners

Tax and compliance

  • Work with your vendor network to understand new tax implications (e.g., CARES Act, tax filing deadlines, IRC  Sec. 139) and how they impact the company
  • Begin thinking about how to communicate tax changes to employees
  • Stay connected to your tax partners for specific guidance around new legislation
  • Review location data from tax vendor to understand new global tax implications
  • Leverage your vendor expertise to provide insight on exposure and compliance risks

Immigration

  • Connect your immigration and tax partners so they can work together to define how this will impact your overall immigration and tax strategy
  • Stay connected to your immigration partners for specific guidance around new legislation; ask immigration provider(s) for regular updates on employee issues that they’re hearing
  • Leverage your provider to create a checklist for “fast repatriation” including FAQ pages for both employees as  well as the business
  • Consider both global and U.S./domestic immigration factors

Technology

  • Work with IT to remediate any issues that may impact safety, productivity, and communication
  • Create and communicate a standardized intake process to support employee issues
  • Evaluate and ensure appropriate access levels to ensure work continues, regardless of location

Vendors

  • Work with resources to draft information for employees in real time
  • Encourage vendors to reach out to employees, if appropriate, with information
  • Consider how you will rationalize internal and vendor data to help problem-solve through this situation
  • Where possible, simplify communications to employees during this period
  • Have vendor pull together an action plan and suggestions that anticipate what’s ahead