COVID-19 is already causing a negative effect on a number of businesses. The travel industry is experiencing considerable disruption including cancellations for airlines, cruise ships, and resort vacations. Businesses in the hospitality sector of countries where cases of COVID-19 are appearing are being hit hard as the tourism industry falters in the wake of the disease’s global spread. Every industry dependent on Chinese manufacturing is feeling the effects of reduced product availability as companies in affected cities shut down and send workers home. Are you wondering if there will be an impact on your business and how your day-to-day operations will be affected?
Practical Steps to Take
Stay informed. Every day the news informs us of the latest updates regarding the spread of COVID-19, and sometimes the events taking place are dramatic. Avoid trusting in news stories that incite panic and inflate the facts in order to build their audience. There can be a tendency to overreact based on a single professional’s opinion. It’s better to take a calibrated view and check additional sources before acting on information.
Consider the Sources
News outlets have been interviewing doctors in all disciplines, even those in fields not related to infectious diseases. Even the experts in the field have differing opinions, and you should consider a variety of reliable sources when making decisions relating to your business and employees. COVID-19 is still teaching doctors and scientists about the risks it poses on a global level, and how it spreads is still not completely understood. There is a lot of conflicting information being passed around as well as stories that cause fear and panic. Be sure the information you provide to your employees comes from reliable sources, and is not based on sensationalism.
Prepare, But Don’t Panic
Select an employee (or team in a large company) to be responsible for informing all employees of COVID-19 updates that directly affect them and your business. In the event your state and city are strongly impacted, determine what individuals can conduct their work remotely from home. This reduces the risk of how many employees might be exposed. Working remote is also an excellent option for any employee that may have been exposed, but is not displaying any symptoms..
It’s impossible to predict how many people in the United States will become ill from COVD-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise employers to be prepared with a flexible response depending on the level of severity of a local outbreak. The CDC believes that non-healthcare workers will have a lower risk of exposure to COVD-19 because work tasks do not create an increased risk of exposure. According to their website, “The CDC and its partners will continue to monitor national and international data on the severity of illness caused by COVID-19, will disseminate the results of these ongoing surveillance assessments and will make additional recommendations as needed.”
If your business is conducted in an office environment, you have the opportunity to lessen the workplace threat of exposure to COVID-19 for you and employees. Post hand-washing instructions next to the sink in bathrooms, provide paper towels (rather than cloth) for drying hands, and install a hand sanitizer (60-95 percent alcohol) dispenser. Provide a no-touch receptacle for the disposal of hand towels and tissues. Encourage your employees to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on their desk as well as tissues for covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Be sure daily cleaning includes all common surfaces that are frequently touched. Surfaces may include workstations, doorknobs, pull handles, file cabinets, and countertops. Lunch room tables, chairs, equipment, and counters should daily be thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant.
Encourage sick employees to stay home, especially if they have respiratory illness symptoms and a fever. If an employee develops symptoms after arriving at work, send him or her home immediately. Non-punitive sick leave policies are important, and should also apply to employees that need to care for a family member (child or spouse) that has contracted the disease. If it’s possible, provide remote access for the employee to do some work from home.
Following the recommendations of the CDC will lower the risk of COVID-19 having a negative impact on your employees and business. As more is known about the disease, additional information will be available to businesses and the general public. Protecting the health of your employees is the best way to ensure your business goes through the challenges associated with COVID-19 with as few interruptions as possible.