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Coronavirus At Work: Keeping Your Staff Calm & Healthy

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Coronavirus At Work: Keeping Your Staff Calm & Healthy

It has become impossible turn on the news, watch SportsCenter or purchase toilet paper without escaping Coronavirus and its far reaching effects on society. While, according to the CDC, 80% of cases of Coronavirus are typically mild, and many infected people may not even realize they are sick, the virus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and is expected to continue its spread throughout the United States - targeting those who are older or have weakened immunity due to Chronic illness.  As the number of reported cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) rises, employers are increasingly confronted with the possibility of an outbreak in the workplace and should work to protect against it.  In addition to offering on-site flu shots and stocking cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer, there are several other ways to slow or even prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout your workplace.

Educate Employees

It is important for employers to proactively educate staff on what is known about the virus, including its transmission and prevention.  The CDC recommends individuals take the following precautions:

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Avoid contact with those who are sick.  If an employee is sick, encourage them to stay home.  If they come to work displaying symptoms of COVID-19, separate them from other employees immediately before having them leave.  

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when available.

  • Disinfect work spaces regularly.  The virus can live on surfaces for several days, so it is important to kill any germs in personal workspaces to prevent them from spreading to others.

  • Avoid handshakes.  Rather than shaking hands with people at work, try a new greeting, such as an elbow bump or the new foot-to-foot greeting, called the Wuhan Shake.   Who knows? You may start a new office trend.

Have a Plan

Establish a written communicable illness policy and response plan that covers communicable diseases readily transmitted in the workplace.  Your plan can include things like:

  • Requiring employees to stay home from work if they have signs or symptoms of a communicable disease that poses a credible threat of transmission in the workplace

  • Requiring employees to stay home if they have traveled to high-risk geographic areas, such as those with widespread or sustained community transmission of the illness 

  • Requiring employees to provide medical documentation that they can return to work. 

Encourage Alternative Business Models and Work Environments

Due to government mandates across the country, many school districts have closed for an extended period of time, and employers have been required to close or have employees work remotely. If your business has not been required to temporarily close it's doors, consider taking measures to help prevent the spread of illness, such as allowing employees flexible work options like telecommuting or gifting sick leave if you are required to keep staff home.   

If COVID-19 has impacted business as usual, employers can also consider other options such as:

  • Small Business Administration Loans – For small businesses who may not be able to afford to gift sick leave or offer pay to employees while they are required to miss work, consider applying for a low interest disaster relief loan from the Small Business Administration.  According to their website, “the SBA makes loans available to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations in designated areas of a state or territory to help alleviate economic injury caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”  Learn more here.
  • Try a New Business Model – If COVID-19 has impacted your ability to conduct business as usual, consider alternative options. Many businesses are conducting meetings and working via Zoom meetings, and many schools are encouraging, or are even mandating, long-distance learning.  According to the Seattle Times, one Seattle fine-dining restaurant has chosen to close their dining room and establish a drive-thru burger restaurant in their parking lot, a pop up bagel shop, and an at-home delivery service to continue to serve the city and keep people employed.

It is likely that you and your employees will be impacted by COVID-19 in some capacity.  Employee education is not only one of the best lines of defense in the workplace, but also one of the best ways to keep people calm. Remind employees to keep up their hygiene and share their knowledge of coronavirus symptoms so they know what to look out for. Together, you and your employees can stay safe, healthy and productive.  Being prepared and having a plan will not only help prevent the rapid spread of disease, it will also ease widespread fear and panic.  Contact RedQuote for more information on staying healthy in the workplace and making sure your employees have the coverage they need in case of illness. 

Published Mar 13, 2020.

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