News about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19 or “the coronavirus”) pandemic is everywhere. It is nearly impossible to know what to read first and what information is accurate. Here are some useful, reliable, trustworthy, resources you can share with your clients and possibly use for your own business.
By being well versed in the facts, you can play a critical role in soothing concerns, stop the spread of the virus further, and keeping workplaces relatively productive.
Three tools and tips you can provide and use:
- What and how to provide to help protect employees and customers
- Continue business operations during a pandemic
- Provide official sources to stay informed
1. Protect employees and customers
During any crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic, safety comes first.
While there’s no guarantee that your employees, customers and business will remain unharmed, there are simple safety measures you can enact to help keep everyone out of harm’s way.
The following strategies are good starting points.
Understand the latest information regarding the COVID-19 virus
Protect employees and customers by ensuring you understand the basics of how this virus is spread, the common symptoms and recommendations to avoid catching the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 is spread:
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- When these droplets land in the mouths or noses of nearby people — or when the droplets are inhaled into the lungs.
Also, according to the CDC, these common symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear 2-14 days after exposure:
- Shortness of breath
The CDC notes that individuals may not show symptoms and yet still carry and spread the virus.
Furthermore, in light of what is presently known about the disease, the CDC recommends the following to reduce the likelihood that you catch or spread the virus:
- Clean your hands often.
- Avoid close contact with others, particularly large groups – a practice commonly referred to as “social distancing.”
- Stay home if you’re sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Wear a face mask if you’re sick.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently.
For more information on how the disease is transmitted, symptoms and what to do if you’re sick, please monitor the CDC website.
Tracking the number and geographic location of reported cases nationwide may be important pending on your geographical location and areas you work in. Through the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science, here is a map of the global cases: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE.
Provide sick policies that align with CDC recommendations.
- If someone is sick, make it possible for the person to stay home. Avoid the risk of spreading their illness, whether its COVID-19 or the common cold, to your workforce and customers. Reassure everyone with an abundance of caution. It will help contain the spread and reassure everyone that you’re committed to their safety.
- Temporarily disband any policies that require a doctor’s note before they can return to work. Particularly for employees suffering from acute respiratory illness or auto immune diseases.
- If an employee’s family member is sick, allow the employee to stay home to provide continuous care. (Refer to the CDC on how to conduct a risk assessment regarding potential exposure.)
- Create a COVID-19 incubation leave policy. This allows employees who are suspected of having the virus to take time off work and isolate themselves.
Sanitation and hygiene
- Provide sufficient soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel, paper towels and other supplies as needed in the workplace to encourage hand hygiene. Soap and water has been proven to not only prevent the spread but kill the germs. Wash your hands often.
- Regularly clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as desks, counter tops, handles and doorknobs. Provide disposable wipes so that employees can wipe commonly used surfaces before each use.
- Think about office behaviors and modify to stop spread the virus in the workplace. For instance, shaking hands, hugging, eating together in close proximity, try a simple nod, bringing your own utensils from home, and eating alone. Minimize the sharing of cups, bowls and other items in common areas.
Travel and events
- Don’t consider canceling non-essential business travel per CDC and Department of State travel guidance, cancel it.
- Large gatherings and meetings, move to a teleconference or postpone.
- Set up a quarantine area for in-bound materials coming from an outbreak area. This will avoid surface transmission to employees.
- CDC: Coronavirus disease 2019 information for travel
- CDC: General travel health notices
- Department of State: COVID-19 information for travelers
2. So you want to continue your business during a pandemic? Here’s a couple ways to keep going.
No one wants to shut their business down if they don’t have to.
Industries, like professional sports or concerts, it’s in the public’s best interest to shutter immediately.
For many other types of companies, business can continue in some form, albeit with extra safety precautions.
Here are things to consider when setting up a remote team:
1. Establish a reliable communication process.
It’s important to keep employees and business partners abreast of your infectious disease outbreak response plans and latest COVID-19 pandemic information.
Involve your employees in developing and updating your plan. Share it widely through email, posted notices and by allotting time in meetings to review plans.
Explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available or amended and for how long.
If you don’t have one already, create an internal crisis communications plan. The following Insperity blog posts might be useful starting points:
- How to create an internal communication plan (and why it’s important)
- Disaster recovery planning: 5 tips to prepare for a crisis
- Effective communication strategies: 7 ways to improve
2. If possible, be flexible with how people work. Be flexible with how YOU work.
Allow employees to work remotely if your business can accommodate it. Or allow staggered shifts, to support social distancing strategies. Be open to alternate forms of communication, and possible establish new processes to support a more remote office.
If the idea of remote employees is new to you, these resources might be helpful:
- How to prepare for remote employees
- How to manage remote employees successfully
- Why and how to allow employees to work flexible schedules
3. Sounds crazy, create redundancy in critical operations.
The unfortunate reality is that a pandemic is unpredictable. It might not impact your business right away, or it might affect many of your employees suddenly.
Be prepared, protect your business and create an action plan that addresses several scenarios. Central to that plan should be efforts to create redundancy in mission-critical operations.
#1 identify critical business functions and all the resources key to their success, including:
- Key personnel
- Related clients
- Supplies and materials required
Once you’ve identified these aspects, create contingency plans for each category.
Identify (and potentially train) backups for key persons. Prioritize your customers and create client communications in case you must temporarily suspend your service for any or all of them. Secure and stockpile extra supplies in the event of supply chain disruptions related to the virus itself or public panic.
Some helpful resources for this include:
- Insperity: Cross-training staff: A guide to effective implementation
- Ready.gov: Business continuity plan
- CDC: Interim guidance for businesses and employees
3. Rely on official sources to keep informed
The COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid situation. Thus, additional guidance, restrictions and best practices will evolve as the situation progresses. To best prioritize the safety of employees, customers and the broader public, it’s vital to stay up to date on the latest guidance.
The CDC is working with the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. government to coordinate U.S. public health response to this disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is also providing information that includes updates on conditions in countries around the world.
Start staying current with these links:
- CDC: COVID-19 official updates and announcements
- CDC: COVID-19 facts and information
- CDC: Printable COVID-19 fact sheets
- WHO: COVID-19 facts, information and news
- CDC: Information for travelers
- Ready.gov: Business continuity plan
- Fisher Phillips: Comprehensive FAQs for Employers on the COVID-19 Coronavirus
Resources to help employers and business owners:
- CDC: Guidance for businesses and employers
- Department of Labor: Pandemic preparedness in the workplace and the ADA
- OSHA: COVID-19 overview and resources for preventing workplace exposure
cbg | CONFIDENT’s commitment to it’s clients.
We have supported small to medium-sized businesses for more than 20 years. We understand we are in uncharted territory and want to ensure you that we are prepared and here to support our clients through this time of uncertainty.
Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees, clients and the communities where we live and work. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have any concerns on your current groups or individual benefit plans you have with us.