The Coronavirus, or Covid-19 is affecting companies due to the ripple effect across US business and economic systems. It’s impacting some companies closer to the front lines of the epicenter from a multitude of angles, as they look for ways to stabilize supply chains, supplement cash flow, and continue to manage productivity. No doubt, these companies and managers are being called to think outside the box to solve problems caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. No matter the degree that your organization is impacted, measures should be taken to adjust and prepare a response that supports your team and continues your ability to manage productivity.
If you’re a manager trying to navigate through what some have called a large scale crisis, you’ll need to make sure to pay close attention to your people. A plan to manage and support the individuals that make up your workforce is a critical piece to seeing through this world-wide concern and any other that comes in the future. Your human capital plan will differ depending on the type of industry and the nature of your organization. It can include alternatives for more remote-working arrangements, more automation, or other flexible human resourcing in response to personnel constraints. The most important thing to do now, if you have not, is to enact a plan and start living it now.
As the world hopes for a solution to the Coronavirus here are a few tips to safeguard your people:
- Prevent Discrimination
To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, use only the guidance described by the CDC to determine the risk of COVID-19. Don’t assume risk based on anyone’s race or country of origin. Sickness can happen to anyone and individuals that fall ill should be treated with respect and care, not like lepers of the old testament. Likewise just because a person coughs or sneezes, it doesn’t mean the person has a contagious virus.
- Beef Up Your Sick Policy
Review your sick policy and make sure it’s got the capacity to serve your organization in preventing and mitigating illness across teams and departments. Make sure your policy includes actively encouraging sick employees to stay home. The CDC recommends:
Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a 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).
Make sure there are no under the radar ways that employees can suffer retribution if they have to miss work due to illness or caring for an ill family member. Make sure your sick policy includes flexibility to allow employees to care for sick children and relatives at home. If your company uses contractors, or closely engages with suppliers, reach out with encouragement and suggest that these companies offer flexible and encouraged sick policies as well, to support a group effort to keep more employees healthy. Let partners and companies in your supply chain know that you’re prioritizing a widespread commitment to public health and ask them to join you.
- Provide On-Site Support
Consider creating a few cubby offices for employees that start to experience symptoms of respiratory irritation and other irritations that may be associated with illness. This will prevent the spread of germs, and give the employee a private place to accomplish work while they’re still evaluating the nature and scope of the irritation.For front-facing employees that deal with customers or work together on production lines or in close collaboration with one another, make sure they have the supplies they need to reduce their risk and maintain sanitary conditions in their work environment. This can include ample supplies of hand sanitizing gel, designated cleaning supplies, and training on new risk-reducing fulfillment processes.
- Technology for Alternative Connectivity
Now is a great time to embrace the rising trend toward virtual connectivity and look for ways that technology can help to safely and adequately provide alternatives for maintaining productivity. Consider investing more in remote conferencing software and new processes to enable virtual collaboration. You could deploy social software like Slack, that enables free-flowing discussion between colleagues and teams, and keeps them at their desks or in their home office and not breathing on each other at the water cooler or the conference room. Review the services and education you’re currently providing to your employees. Do the providers you’re using offer virtual services and connectivity? Make changes to enable virtual services where needed.
Technology can offer a temporary fix for reduced travel while Coronavirus developments play out. The CDC recommends taking numerous precautions if work travel is necessary. It’s not a bad idea to reduce travel for your employees where it’s not essential and especially international travel. Employer travel requirements can be a huge source of anxiety and stress for employees who are hearing news accounts online and on TV regarding the spread of the Coronavirus and traveling disease carriers. Postponing their travel plans can reduce their risk and relieve anxiety and show your team you’re concerned for their well being.
Until there’s a vaccine developed for Covid-19, we can expect more uncertainty and volatility to flow through the business community. Employees on all levels will be under more pressure working with constraints and worry. Taking these measures to protect and support your people will help your organization stabilize what it can, and ensure that your people stay as healthy and as productive as possible.