Pandemic prevention is not typically on the radar of employers and HR professionals - but it's certainly on everyone's mind as the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads throughout the US and the world. The virus is significantly impacting social and economic life: school closures, bans on sizable gatherings, and restrictions and/or bans on travel and dining out have become standard in states and municipalities across the country.
As an employer or HR professional, COVID-19 as it relates to the preparedness, effectiveness, and safety of your workforce is likely top of mind. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and, specifically for HR, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) are excellent resources and should be monitored for updates, advice, and resources. We have included links to a number of resource pages at the end of this post.
However, many seemingly simple tips regarding disease prevention hold true when limiting potential exposure to COVID-19, and should be reiterated to your employees. Employee wellness tips and policy suggestions include:
Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands...for at least 20 seconds! And, keep your hands off your face.
If your employees feel sick, encourage them to stay home. If your employees are visibly sick, send them home. This may cost you both money and productivity, but if they infect the rest of your workforce, that will ultimately be much more costly and dangerous to public health. Check state law for any “reporting time pay” requirements.
If you cough or sneeze, do it into a tissue if possible, and then throw it away. Your elbow/upper arm is next best. If you accidentally cough or sneeze into your hands, wash them immediately and disinfect anything you touched on your way to do so (e.g., doorknobs and sink handles).
Disinfect frequently touched objects often (e.g., doorknobs, sink handles, fridge and microwave doors, water cooler buttons, your phone).
Restrict and/or discourage unnecessary physical contact of any kind, including handshakes.
Require employees to report if they have traveled to a CDC-reported restricted area, or if the employee has had contact with a diagnosed person or a person with potential exposure risk, to stay home, work remotely if possible, and self-quarantine.
Review your remote work policy. If you don’t have one, consider creating one that responds to the likelihood of a quarantined employee, as well as meets your business needs and compliance standards.
Review your anti-discrimination policy with all employees. Remind them that discrimination based on assumptions about employees’ perceived medical conditions will not be tolerated.
In addition, this is an excellent time to review your business continuity planning. This may include employee leave policies, remote work policies, virtual communication capabilities, security protocols, etc.
For example, CheckWriters has a number of processes in place to ensure the safety of our workforce and to ensure that any potential disruptions to our clients are minimal. Specifically, CheckWriters employees in all departments are equipped with secure laptops, allowing them to work remotely if necessary. In addition, all phone communications to our corporate office can be directly routed to off-site team members, and CheckWriters’ video conferencing capabilities allow CheckWriters employees to conference amongst themselves or directly with clients when necessary. Therefore, if an Account Specialist is required to work from home, our communication and departmental processes are designed to continue uninterrupted.
We encourage you to review your own business continuity planning as this situation unfolds - and please take a look at the resources below!