In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Resource Management in Malaysia encounters many challenges that require immediate action. Presently, close attention must be paid to employees’ mental and physical health, as this is an urgent problem in the restrictive conditions of the disease and the risks for unemployment. The current coronavirus pandemic outbreak has created an unprecedented situation around the world. The World Health Organization and health authorities worldwide are trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the incidence. Therefore, organizations in Malaysia need to support their workers by paying close attention to their physical and mental health and compliance with personal protective measures, and letting them know how they can get help.
To begin with, it is necessary to explain the essence of the problem. After the coronavirus outbreak, most Malaysian employers were primarily focused on protecting their businesses from bankruptcy and planning their future strategies. Unfortunately, poor attention was paid to employees – many of them began feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and worried about losing their jobs and having to start over in such terrifying circumstances. Many in addition refused to wear masks and keep social distance, which undermined the health of several workers in Malaysian companies.
Further, after starting working from home, some of the staff members faced specific issues. As mentioned by IPSOS Malaysia (2021), “even after 9 months of working from home, a majority still struggle to cope with the balance of work life, the inadequacy of home setup, and severe loneliness/isolation” (p. 2). Statistics show that unstable job security and stress due to unforeseen changes are experienced by around 70% of Malaysian workers compared with only 55% of employees globally (IPSOS Malaysia, 2021). These are the problems that companies are interested in addressing as soon as possible.
It is hard to disagree that it is essential for organizations in the country to solve the issue. The transmission of infection occurs by airborne droplets from an infected person to a healthy one. This means that every employee of Malaysian organizations can be infected both in the conditions of work in the company and in their free time (Larochelle, 2020). This problem leads to the fact that a sick person is a potential threat to the entire staff of a particular organization. As for workers’ mental health, being depressed, stressed, overwhelmed, or focused on personal and family problems and fears does not allow them to pay close attention to their professional responsibilities (IPSOS Malaysia, 2021). Based on this premise, workforce revitalization is beneficial for individuals operating in companies and outcomes of the businesses since mental issues or the spread of disease in the work environment will lead to disruptions in productivity.
Unfortunately, multiple employers chose the wrong strategy – they modified their business plans while cutting down on expenses by providing employees with unpaid leaves. Moreover, researchers mention that in April 2021, the unemployment rate in Malaysia was more than 4.5% (Yong & Sia, 2021): 7% and 10% of employees left or lost their jobs, respectively (IPSOS Malaysia, 2021). The number is alarming because the government allocated resources to minimize the impact. Based on relevant information, 17% of Malaysia’s annual GDP in 2019 was centered around stimulus for businesses to avoid firing workers due to the financial issues caused by the pandemic (Teh, Koh, & Joo, 2021). However, since the unemployment rate is still high, allocating more resources and legislatively minimizing unemployment would be the only solution.
Organizations need to develop precautions for employees to address security issues and provide specific resources for maintaining their mental health. First of all, it is important to establish a steady track of official recommendations and advice, particularly up-to-date information from central and local health authorities and WHO (Omary et al., 2020). Further, companies need to revise their internal policies and measures to combat infection, including educating workers on the most effective ways to ensure safety and hygiene (Bank Negara Malaysia, 2020). Additionally, implementing relatively harsh punishment for putting people at risk by not following preventative measures can be an effective solution to ensuring the workplace’s safety.
Moreover, the critical situation in the Malaysian workforce suggests the need for change. Researchers point out that such high death rates and infections correlate with low vaccination progress, consisting of less than 2% of the demographic (Yong & Sia, 2021). Employers can introduce mandatory test results every few days or proof of vaccination to reduce the risk of infections. As for the strategies to maintain the workers’ mental health, organizations can use psychological testing every month to identify workers with depression or other conditions. For those who are worried about family or personal issues and are under stress, especially related to COVID-19, companies should provide psychological support.
One of the main precautions is considering the risks to others from work activities. Moreover, organizations need contingency planning in case of the unavailability of personnel and the development of plans to distribute the increased workload. A study identifying the damage that the pandemic has caused to workers within the Malaysian tourism industry suggests building resilience as a way to revitalize the workforce (Abhari, Jalali, Jaafar, & Tajaddini, 2021). A business that can respond to emergencies and crises quickly will not have to mass fire employees and impact the unemployment rate by contributing to its growth.
Abhari, S., Jalali, A., Jaafar, M., & Tajaddini, R. (2021). The impact of Covid-19 pandemic on small businesses in tourism and hospitality industry in Malaysia. Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Ahead-of-Print (ahead-of-print).
Bank Negara Malaysia (2020). Annual Report 2020. Web.
IPSOS Malaysia. (2021). Press release: Pandemic’s impact on Malaysian workforce [PDF document]. Web.
Larochelle, M. R. (2020). “Is it safe for me to go to work?” Risk stratification for workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. New England Journal of Medicine, 383(5), 28.
Omary, M. B., Eswaraka, J., Kimball, S. D., Moghe, P. V., Panettieri, R. A., & Scotto, K. W. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and research shutdown: Staying safe and productive. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 130(6), 2745-2748.
Teh, S. Y., Koh, H. L., & Joo, K. S. (2021). Modeling effectiveness of partial lockdown in breaking covid-19 transmission chain in Malaysia. Infosys Science Foundation Series, 559–576.
Yong, S. S., & Sia, J. K.-M. (2021). Covid-19 and social well-being in Malaysia: A case study. Current Psychology.