Now, more than ever, the world is examining how companies treat their employees in times of crisis. By providing your employees with a process and plan to address COVID-19 and possible exposures, you're caring for both your organization and your workforce.
What is COVID-19?
Before putting an action plan in place, take a moment to understand what it is you are dealing with. As defined by the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus, with symptoms including fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and severe body aches.
COVID-19 is extremely contagious and spread by respiratory droplets which can occur from direct contact with infected individuals, coughs, sneezes, and touching contaminated surfaces, followed by touching one's face.
Resources for Your Employees
The rapid spread of COVID-19 and the expansive media coverage of the disease has spurred overwhelming anxiety. Your employees most likely fear for their own health, the health of their loved ones, financial difficulties, isolation from social distancing, and other lifestyle changes.
It's important to remind your employees of resources available to them. This includes your Employee Assistance Program, local support hotlines, and financial assistance options – both local and federal. By providing employees with options for help, you can ease their anxiety.
Resources for Employers
You may be wondering if members of your workforce can be tested; Testing eligibility is determined by medical providers only. Currently, mildly symptomatic individuals may get tested and severely symptomatic individuals should get tested. If an employee is symptomatic, but not eligible for testing, they could still be required by a medical professional to self-quarantine.
If an employee does test positive, OSHA and the CDC have several recommendations. Depending on the worksite, you may need to close the employee's workspace for decontamination. You'll also want to identify anyone whom the infected employee had direct contact with and quickly notify these individuals. Make sure to consult with your legal team and human resources as to what information you can disclose.
Once you identify the individuals who have had direct contact with the infected employee, it is recommended that they remain in self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms at least twice daily.
Make sure you communicate to not only these individuals, but to your entire team that your organization understands that this is a scary time for everyone, and it is important to demonstrate care and respect for one another.
Your business continuity depends on your technology, communications, and culture. For remote work, technology such as personal cell phones allow many employees to work on the go. This is also true for personal laptops. Once they are securely installed with your organization's necessary applications, your employees can use them to work from home. Of course, remember that with many organizations working remotely, cyber attacks are on the rise. Protect your organization with a cyber security management plan.
Continue constant communication on platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and/or Zoom so that your team stays productive and on track. Consider hosting weekly (or even more frequent) townhall meetings so that all employees understand the health and direction of your organization.
If employees are not able to work remotely, ensure that they disinfect their environment every four hours. For example, if an employee works a 12-hour shift, they should disinfect the area three times. If employees have access to gloves, make sure they use them.
And even if your team is remote, it does not mean organizations can slack on culture — in fact, company culture is now more important than ever. Keep your team members' spirits high by keeping work and meetings as fun and comfortable as possible. For example, you could introduce theme days (hat day, beach day, etc.) for your team members to dress up and have fun during your town hall meetings.