If you have been paying attention to the news recently, coronavirus will probably be top of mind. Officially named COVID-19, this respiratory illness originated in Wuhan, China, but has since spread globally. Though much news coverage has been fear-based, the situation is a solid reminder the benefit of good health and safety.
Workplaces are spaces where people spend the majority of their time in a week interacting with others. If your company isn’t already thinking about and taking actions regarding coronavirus, now is the time to start. It is your responsibility as a business to ensure the safety of your employees, and make sure that the way work is carried out doesn’t have a negative effect on the health and safety of others affected by your work.
Coronavirus should be taken seriously and actioned against in a way that is based on facts and not fear. Its important to know that there are steps you can take to ensure risk remains relatively low. Here are the practises we are following at Energy Resourcing and recommend all companies implement during this time.
Encourage frequent hand washing
If there is anything we have learned during discussion of coronavirus it’s the importance of washing your hands frequently and properly. Good hand washing is one of the best ways of preventing the spread of cold, flu and virus illness. Post hand-washing reminders and educational posters in restrooms and throughout the office reminding employees to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and hot water.
Most health agencies have printable posters available online. Make use of all resources available to educate your employees.
Restrict unnecessary work travel
With coronavirus, travel has been the main way the virus has been spreading. Limiting travel during this time minimises employees’ chances of coming into contact with affected individuals. It also minimises the chance of them spreading it back home. Many companies have put temporary bans on non-essential travel bans, though a total ban on should be considered as the situation changes.
If travel is required, investigate insurance validity issues to protect employees wherever they go. Provide clear guidelines to your employees around international and domestic travel, particularly if your government guidance changes while they are gone.
Host online events and video meetings
If you need to cancel any planned events because of coronavirus guidelines, consider organising a live event on social media though Facebook, or with a video broadcasting service.
Unless its essential, consider scheduling all meetings as video calls. Connect with clients using Skype to still get face time without the additional risk.
Clean commonly used surfaces regularly
Cover the basics. Make sure you have enough soap, hand sanitiser and ant-bacterial cleaners. Encourage additional cleaning of work areas, including desks and phones.
Talk to your cleaners and contractors about your day-to-day needs, and any advanced practises they can put n place during coronavirus. High traffic communal areas such as lunchroom counter tops, door knobs, light switches, coffee machines, and door handles should be thoroughly cleaned daily.
Ensure employees are able to work remotely
Whether due to self-isolation needs or a change to government guidance, ensure your employees are able to work from home. Transfer your company’s data to the cloud, switch to online versions of the software you already use and take steps to make sure it is secured.
Work with IT to ensure your system can handle everyone working remotely at once, if not, schedule shifts. Make sure an IT helpdesk number is available and there are enough support staff to assist as needed. Investigate communication tools like Skype, Slack, WhatsApp or Microsoft Teams to ensure everyone is able to communicate when they are home.
Encourage sick employees to stay home
Most of us are guilty of coming to work when we have a cold or flu. But when sick employees show up at work, there is a good chance that they will spread their illness to their coworkers and around their workspace. Coronavirus is highly contagious, and it isn’t fair to others to put them at risk.
Communicating in writing your expectations for sick employees is critical. Let them know if they are feeling unwell, or showing cold and flu symptoms, they should stay home and that this is expected of everyone regardless of their role. Consider offering paid sick time if you are able to do so, especially to hourly employees.
If an employee lets you know their illness is relatively minor, remind them of your ‘work from home’ policy. It’s a good middle ground for anyone that doesn’t feel well but feels healthy enough to work.
The advice of prevention being better than cure has never been more relevant.
Refrain from handshakes and cheek kisses
It is common courtesy in the corporate work to shake hands or kiss cheeks when you greet coworkers or meet someone for the first time. However during coronavirus, doing so exposes you to an increased risk. So for now put these practises on hold.
Let people know that right now you are practicing elbow bumps, or toe taps, to keep everyone as healthy as possible. If everyone’s on the same page it won’t be awkward, in fact they will appreciate you putting their safety first.
Provide a list of frequently asked questions
If you are getting a lot of questions from clients around your business in light of coronavirus, prepare a FAQ. Prepare answers to frequently asked questions and provide as much detail and reassurance as possible. Please keep in mind that this will be a ‘living’ document and will need to be updated and checked for accuracy on a daily basis as the situation evolves.
Communicate with employees
Communication is critical when things are moving and changing so quickly. Make sure you are sending out regular communications and have line managers echoing the same messages to their teams. Empower your employees with tools and knowledge so they can protect themselves and their coworkers.
If you are making contingency plans, let your employees know. If you are implementing new policies or changing existing business, let your employees know. Let them know what’s changing and why. Inform early and provide frequent updates.
Reassure your employees that you are staying on top of the situation to ensure safely during coronavirus. It will help your business run as smoothly as possible.
Plan ahead beyond coronavirus
While all these tips and strategies are important to take now, you should still have plans in place for any other disaster. Whether its fire, flood, earthquake, hurricanes or cyber attacks, you should have smart strategies in place.
If not, there is no better time to start planning for the unexpected than right now. Institute a yearly or bi-annual practice day to run through your continuity plans ahead of time – before you actually need them.
Please remember that any information contains in this article is only guidance and written with information available at time of publication. We are not health experts, and this guide shouldn’t take the place of expert professional advise from a medical professional or government organisation.
For more information on keeping employees and yourself healthy and safe during coronavirus, please refer to these professional associations for their latest official correspondence:
Speaking on behalf of our global team, we appreciate your trust and confidence in us to support you as we navigate through this time of uncertainty together. We will continue to adapt as the situation evolves – and we know you will do the same.
Stay safe out there!