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Report from China – delivering HR services under COVID-19

Anjali Pendlebury-Green
May 21, 2020

In a recent post, our colleague Anjali Pendlebury-Green outlined general trends we’ve been seeing from Capgemini’s Business Services HR helpdesks during the COVID-19 pandemic. We wanted to share our experience of delivering lockdown HR services from China.

The outbreak reached serious levels in China earlier than in other countries, and the start of the lockdown coincided with the weekend of the Chinese New Year in late January. It might seem to some that this must – at least to begin with – have lessened the impact on the world of business, in that people would be off work in any case.

In fact, in many ways, it made things more difficult. People had left their offices and other places of work for what they anticipated would be only a few days, and as a result, many of them were ill-equipped – literally and figuratively – to perform their duties from home instead. What’s more, the internal support channels, such as line managers, payroll services, and human resources functions, were themselves in unexpected lockdown, and were less available than usual.

It wasn’t even as if people could decide to enjoy the holiday and worry about things later: after all, social distancing also meant that families couldn’t come together – or go out – to celebrate the New Year properly.

Changing patterns…

At our Business Services center in Nanhai, from which we provide HR helpdesk services to several major enterprises, we experienced much higher numbers of voice calls than of digital traffic in the early stages of lockdown. As Anjali noted in her own blog, this seemed to be the result of an understandable need for greater personal interaction. A skeleton crew attended our office building to gather equipment and redirect services, and our IT team set up Cisco Jabber for home use – all of which meant that there was only a temporary reduction in our ability to handle these calls and to address ServiceNow tickets.

For us, one of the consequences of the timing of the start of lockdown was that many of the queries we received related to holiday entitlement. People had booked time off so as to extend the break over the Chinese New Year, and the government extended the official holiday for one more week. This meant that our people didn’t need to use their own annual leave but still could enjoy a longer public holiday, and wanted to recoup the days they had originally booked.

We also received a number of calls from new employees, who had been due to start work with our clients after the public holiday. Did their offer of employment still stand? Was their position secure? We were able to reassure them, and to tell them that the onboarding process would be only slightly delayed. (Indeed, most of the onboarding was successfully addressed by as early as mid-February.)

We also needed to pay special attention to employees located in Hubei province, which was the area worst hit by the virus. Tighter governmental restrictions had been imposed in this area, and Hubei workers needed more support in establishing flexible working arrangements for themselves.

… and a gradual return to normal

As the lockdown progressed, and as restrictions began to ease, the nature of the calls we received started to change. In late February and also in March, people were getting in touch to request employment certificates. Possession of these certificates was a local government requirement for anyone leaving the home for business purposes, and furnishing them to whom requested for it was one of major tasks for our team.

Things are returning to normal now. Our clients’ employees went back to their places of work during the period from mid-February to early March, but generally only for part of the week, alternating between the office and working from home. Things went back to normal around mid to late March.

It’s been as much a challenge for us as it has been for our clients and indeed, for every other organization – but I’m glad to say there has been little impact on the volume or quality of the service we provide, and this has been noted in monthly operational calls.

It’s our hope that all restrictions, as well as COVID-19 itself, will soon be a thing of the past – not just for us here in China, but for people and businesses worldwide.

To find out more about how Capgemini’s Digital Employee Operations can provide critical communication management and effective remote service delivery, as well as enable your workforce to operate at the right level of performance during crisis, contact: and

Read more  from our colleagues across the Capgemini Group about how they are helping our clients run their business operations during these challenging times.

Read other blogs in this series

This blog was co-authored by Ella Li and Aries Zhu from the Nanhai Delivery Center in China.

Ella Li supervises a team to deliver high quality, professional and proactive day-to-day HR administration, workforce planning, people movement, and leavers and reporting service to Capgemini’s clients.

Aries Zhu leads a team to deliver high quality end-to-end HR outsourcing services, including recruitment, HR administration, compensation and benefits, learning and development, and performance management to Capgemini’s clients.