As of writing, WHO declares coronavirus as a global pandemic. There are over 126,000 cases all over the world, affecting 124 countries and territories. The death toll has climbed up to 4,633. These numbers are expected to increase since 11% of the infected population is in critical condition. The local governments and health organizations advise people to stay at home, remain vigilant in public areas, and avoid traveling.
If you’re running a business or you’re working in HR services, you might be thinking about the measures you can take to ensure the safety of your workers while responding to clients’ demands with the same level of commitment.
As the duration and severity of the outbreak are undetermined, employers must have short and long-term plans of action prepared. Here are 8 things you may do amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
1. Educate and raise awareness
The administrative department, including supervisors and HR personnel, may start by educating their employees about the nature of this highly contagious virus, its symptoms, and common misconceptions. Employers should also provide ways to prevent it:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Observe proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands frequently. You may also use hand sanitizers and alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% ethyl alcohol.
- Practice good respiratory etiquette. Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Wear a face mask if you’re sick.
- Boost your immune system by eating healthy foods, taking food supplements, getting your daily dose of vitamin D (sun), staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep.
- If you’re experiencing fever, respiratory symptoms (colds, cough, sore throat), fatigue, and shortness of breath, seek medical care early.
Remind employees about these through infographics. You may seek online resources from WHO and your local health department, and place signs on high-traffic areas, including the bathroom.
2. Reinforce a zero-tolerance policy
It’s suggested to set forth a strict policy regarding the preventive measures and expect everyone to follow them, as one would in any company-wide protocol. The policy should communicate the following objectives:
- Reducing transmission among staff
- Protecting people who are at higher risk
- Maintaining business operations amid the virus outbreak
Any employee who fails to follow any code of conduct can be a huge threat, thus should be called out.
3. Encourage “Work from Home”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised employers to encourage “work from home” privileges. Assess their daily responsibilities and determine which can be done remotely. Ask the workers what resources they’d need to make this arrangement work.
HR department, outsourced HR support, and supervisors may also enforce conference calls and real-time reports to make sure employees are actually working. While working remotely simply isn’t for every line of business, the companies, and employees that can make this setting work should be considering and embracing the opportunity to do so now.
4. Provide employees with protective gears
Does your business require your workers to speak with or interact with strangers on a daily basis? If it’s impossible for your employees to work from home, boost their protection by providing them with face masks, rubbing alcohol, disinfecting wipes, and tissue. One single droplet from a sick customer could put your worker at risk.
5. Actively urge sick workers to stay at home
An employee’s illness poses a huge threat to his/her fellow colleagues. With this, CDC recommends employers to have flexible sick leave policies that are consistent with public health guidance.
Sick workers, especially those who demonstrate respiratory symptoms, must be urged to stay at home. The management should also send symptomatic employees home until they’re fully healed.
6. Perform routine environmental cleaning
No matter how often we wash our hands, the virus will eventually find its way to our system if the workplace isn’t disinfected. Make sure to include cleaning and disinfecting measures into your plan. Sanitize all frequently touched surfaces including workstations, doorknobs, countertops, and biometrics.
Employers should also provide theIr employees with disposable wipes, rubbing alcohol, and other cleaning agents to wipe down surfaces before each use.
7. Encourage a “no-handshake” culture…for now
Just to be safe, avoid shaking hands in the workplace. Respiratory viruses can be passed by shaking hands and touching your nose, mouth, or eyes. During this difficult time, it’s better to approach people with a verbal greeting, wave, nod, or a bow instead.
8. Suspend non-essential business travels
For the time being, a majority of classes, concerts and other social events, and some business operations are interrupted. Domestic and international travel bans are also implemented. That said, it’s widely accepted for companies to suspend any work-related travel for everyone’s safety.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a creative writer for HR Dept Australia, a provider of affordable and pragmatic HR services and employment law advice in Australia. Writing about helpful career management solutions for both employees and employers is her cup of tea.