Top 5 Ways Companies are Addressing COVID-19 in the Workplace
March 31, 2020
As an HR Leader, I have learned to embrace a wide variety of challenges. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has been one of the most unique challenges of my career.
Fake news covering the coronavirus is rampant, and it’s hard to tell the difference between reputable information and media stunts aimed to scare us. The Johns Hopkins website has a map with daily updates of where cases are being reported worldwide. I, personally, have been torturing myself by reviewing it to see all of the hot spots.
As the virus continues to spread in the U.S. it’s vital for companies to start preparing a response strategy if one isn’t already in place. Our job as HR Leaders is to protect our workforce, keep everyone informed and support our employees during times of uncertainty.
I’ve summarized the top 5 ways U.S. companies are currently addressing the coronavirus outbreak:
Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. Good hygiene is easier than people think.
Since most of us learned the tenets of hygiene when we were young, reminding people of basic life skills can come across as patronizing. Try to balance a serious HR stance with a light message while still getting the point across:
Wash your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice (20 seconds), repeatedly throughout the day.
Do not shake anyone’s hands. Do not fear being rude. Your colleagues and business partners will certainly understand. They don’t want to shake your hand either.
People in China found another way to greet since they can't shake hands.
If hand washing cannot be performed, liberal use of hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) is recommended. Equip every employee with their own personal sized hand sanitizer and stock all conference rooms, common areas, restrooms and kitchens with hand sanitizer.
Give everyone their own personal tissue box and set out communal tissue boxes in common areas and anywhere your employees gather. Remind employees to place all tissues immediately in the wastebasket after use.
Practice coughing and sneezing etiquette by coughing or sneezing into tissue. If none is in reach, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
Wash your clothing when you get home.
Use your forearm or knuckles to operate light switches.
Ask employees to wipe down their desk, keyboards and mice, once per week.
Have Lysol spray and wipes in easy to grab places and hire extra cleaning crew to sanitize and deep clean conference rooms, kitchen areas and common areas on a regular basis.
The World Health Organization says that keeping a distance of at least 6 feet between individuals helps mitigate the chances of transmission.
If you really want to keep the office clean, strategize a daily cleaning plan, break your facility into cleaning zones and appoint zone captains.
Additionally, follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask:
CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
COVID-19 symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle aches and shortness of breath. It is strongly advised for anyone that is experiencing shortness of breath to go to the hospital immediately. Order touch-less thermometers for the office, and if anyone feels slightly unwell, encourage them to take their temperature.
Stay home when you have a fever or a dry cough.
If you feel at all bad, take your temperature before coming to work or while at work.
Doctor’s notes are NOT required. Trust each other and assume no one would take advantage of the crisis and slack off on work.
Stay home until you are free of fever and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).
3. Addressing Work from Home
If your company is able, consider limiting human exposure by rolling out work from home options. Here are a few ways how:
If your business doesn’t require in person tasks, use virtual tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting and others.
Communicate flexibility for employees to work from home if the employee is a primary caregiver to someone who is sick. This will minimize any exposure to your co-workers and will aid you in recovering more quickly.
Express to your team that working from home is acceptable and encouraged while the community is feeling uncertain of COVID-19 spread.
Companies can prohibit business travel, but we can’t tell people what to do with their personal lives. However, companies are still able to place quarantine rules. If an employee recently came back from an international trip, especially if visiting high risk countries were part of their trip, make a policy to quarantine them.
It would be prudent to ask them to work remotely for a few days up to 14 days. The average incubation period for COVID-19 is between 2 and 14 days because after a person becomes infected with the virus, it takes on average 5 to 6 days before symptoms appear.
Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
Avoid large gatherings and conferences. Indeed, Facebook, Twitter and more have taken the stance to allow employees to work from home and/or cancel conference attendance.
5. Coronavirus: Know the Basic Facts to Answer Questions for Your Team
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person 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. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
It is not known for certain how long COVID-19 lasts on surfaces, but other closely related coronavirus types, like the common cold, last up to several days.