You’re probably sick of hearing about it now. The coronavirus is on the front page of every newspaper around the world and the top story on every website. It’s something that’s affecting both large and small businesses and many local health agencies are struggling to make sure the messages are clear.
Whether you’re in an area that has been affected by the coronavirus or in one that has yet to feel the effects of the virus, it is still a good idea to get your business prepared for the possibility that the coronavirus will affect you, your workforce, and your company’s product.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released several guidelines to make sure that businesses do what they can to prevent the spread of the virus. The suggestions below are based upon recommendations by the CDC.
Review your sick leave policy and re-evaluate it if possible
The CDC suggests that any employees that have a fever of 100.4°F or higher stay home from work until they are fever-free without the help of fever-reducing or symptom altering medicines for at least 24 hours. This means employees could be forced to stay home for days at a time.
If you have a company sick leave policy, make sure that you review it with your employees, so they know what’s expected of them. Who do they notify if they are out sick? Do they have to call in when they are sick, or can it be via text message or email?
If your sick policy requires a doctor’s note for multiple days of missed work, the CDC suggests that you ignore that requirement because medical facilities are extremely busy at this time.
There’s also the issue of pay. Are employees paid when they take a sick day? How many sick days are available to each employee?
Review all of these issues with your employees. Make sure you’re prepared for the possibility that an employee may need to stay home to care for themselves, a sick child or an elderly family member.
Send employees home
You should also be ready to send employees home if they start to show signs of illness during the workday. The CDC recommends “…that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) …be sent home immediately.”
One of the best ways to keep other employees from getting sick is to send home employees who show signs of illness.
Remind employees about good hygiene procedures
Everyone in your business must be on the same page when it comes to hygiene so that you limit the spread of germs.
- Promote proper cough and sneeze etiquette within the office and hand washing hygiene. If you’re concerned about how to do this, the CDC has some great posters that you can print out and post around the office and in the office bathroom. They’re gentle reminders to keep good hygiene at the forefront of employees’ minds.
- Remind employees that alcohol-based hand sanitizer should contain 60-95% alcohol and if possible, provide employees with hand sanitizer at various locations in the office.
- Handwashing should be with soap and water and last for at least 20 seconds. Make sure soap is always available in the bathrooms and restock immediately if it runs out.
- Offer tissues and no-touch garbage cans for employees. No-touch meaning lidless or a lid that opens with the wave of the hand or the stomp of the foot.
Routine cleaning is also very important to stop the spread of the disease. Pay special attention to the frequently touched surfaces in the office including doorknobs, countertops, and workstations. Health agencies say cleaning agents like Clorox or Lysol are good enough to get the job done, so don’t worry about rushing out to buy a special cleaner.
If possible, provide employees with disposable cleaning wipes so they can clean their work surfaces, keyboards, desks, and doorknobs.
If you live in an area where there are cases of novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19, then your local health department may have issued other advisories for businesses. Among the most common:
- Avoid large employee meetings.
- Allow employees to work from home if possible.
Even those that do not test positive for the coronavirus can be affected by it. Take steps now to make sure that you, your employees, and your business are not caught off guard.