As the world reacts to the rapid spread of infection, it’s hard to keep track of the latest updates and guidance on handling COVID-19, commonly known as the Novel Coronavirus. Employers are responsible for keeping their employees healthy and guiding them through this uncertain time.
Follow this coronavirus response plan for employers to protect your employees and the public.
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Encourage Social Distancing
Social distancing means staying out of large groups and maintaining a distance of six feet from other people, where possible. Help employees to take part and slow the spread of COVID-19 by:
- Scheduling shift work to limit the number of employees in the office at one time
- Encourage employees to work from home, if possible
- Setting up “no-touch” meetings and interviews
- Rearranging the office layout to give more space between employees
Make working from home easier and less isolating by encouraging employees to communicate. Sending messages via Slack or Zoom and meeting through video conferences helps employees stay connected while they are not together in the workplace.
Cancel all non-essential international work travel until further notice. Consider cancelling all work travel until further notice and encouraging employees to limit their personal travel as well. If you can, swap in-person meetings with teleconferences or video calls.
Provide Sanitizing Products
Provide disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer for employees, customers and anyone else who visits your workplace to use.
Place them where they’ll be used the most. For instance, hand sanitizers should go outside the bathroom, in the kitchen or lunch room and in meeting rooms. Store disinfecting wipes next to doors, desk pods, elevators and eating areas.
Encourage Good Habits
Send out a company-wide message encouraging healthy habits. Encourage good hand hygiene by sharing proper hand washing methods and timing (e.g. before and after eating, after going to the bathroom, etc.).
Ask employees to cough or sneeze into their arm, not their hands, and to wear a mask if they’re ill. These measures may seem condescending, but sharing these reminders helps slow the spread of disease.
Disinfect the Workplace
Sanitize your workplace as often as possible, focusing on high-touch areas such as:
- Elevator buttons
- Door handles
- Tables and chairs in common areas
- Microwaves, refrigerators and coffee makers
Encourage employees to wipe down their workspace and common areas they’ve used, too.
Pay attention to the cleaning products’ ingredients and use medical-grade products if you can. Choose products that are bleach-based or contain at least 70 per cent alcohol.
Create an Infectious Disease Response Plan
One step of coronavirus response for employers that you can use in the future is to write an infectious disease response plan. Use this for your organization now and in the event of future outbreaks. Include:
- Information about shutdowns, including scaled scenarios from reducing travel to all employees working from home
- Office access if a breakout occurs (i.e. who has access and when)
- Healthcare emergency instructions (e.g. where to go if they feel ill, how to disclose a diagnosis, what to do if their family member is diagnosed)
Send the completed plan to all employees. Knowing what to do and feeling prepared will help ease their minds.
Share Up-to-Date Information
Each day, provide accurate, up-to-date information with your employees. Use company-wide emails, texts or other communication channels that all employees can access. Employees may feel scared, confused or unsure during this time, so make sure to update them frequently. Emphasize that they should prioritize health and safety over work duties.
Offer flexible sick leave, encouraging employees to stay home if they feel ill. Do not require a doctor’s note for longer medical absences. Doctors are very busy and may not have time to write a note, plus this may discourage sick employees from taking the time they need to recover.
In addition, offer family leave to employees who have to care for an infected relative. This not only gives them the time they need to provide proper care, but also reduces the risk of them spreading the virus to other employees.
Disclose, But Carefully
If one of your employees is diagnosed with COVID-19, you have to disclose it to other employees for their safety. However, avoid sharing any identifying details of the employee. Find balance between complying with HIPAA and other privacy laws and protecting the rest of your staff.
As a result of COVID-19, you’ll probably have to modify your policies, procedures and processes. These could include:
- Updated medical and family leave policies
- Modified health and safety procedures
- New or updated remote work policies
Whenever you make changes, be sure to communicate them to employees through multiple channels. The better you keep them informed, the safer employees will feel.
Enlist IT for Remote Work Prep
As part of social distancing and self-isolation efforts, consider requiring employees to work from home. To prepare them, ensure their technology is in working order. Ask your IT department to provide employees with information regarding:
- How to access programs or software remotely
- Where and how to contact them for technical support
- How to use their remote-access VPN (if applicable)
- Up-to-date tech policies and procedures (including acceptable use)
Inform Customers of Your Plans
Keep customers and clients in the loop. Send your email and contacts lists any changes you make to your policies, procedures and operations. Include updated contact information, business hours and alternate resources (such as a link to an online shop or information database) if you’re not operating as you normally would.
Most importantly, follow guidance issued by your city, state or province, and country. This ensures your employees stay safe and prevent the spread of the virus.
Employers in the United States can find their latest guidance here.
Canadian employers can find their guidance here.
Coronavirus Response for Employers
Remember that as their employer, employees look to you to guide them through COVID-19. Take precautions to protect them and the public, but remain calm.