COVID-19 had first originated in Wuhan, China, and has since spread to over 120 countries, with over 170,000 confirmed cases and over 6000 deaths across the globe. With more than one-third of COVID-19 cases reported outside of China, the WHO has officially declared it a global pandemic.
In light of such a crisis situation and global slow-down, it’s important that employers be prepared and plan ahead in order to safeguard the well-being of all employees.
While it may prove costly for companies to issue a work-from-home for all employees, it is ideally the safest way to go. However, for those who cannot afford a complete shut-down of on-site operations, there are ways you can protect the lives of employees who continue to travel to work daily.
As employers, here’s how you can ensure smoother work-flows in order to help your teams work effectively during times like these –
Develop an effective communication strategy
One of the most important things you can do as an employer is to maintain transparency in communication throughout. Establish a team of key stakeholders and discuss your communication strategy and the way forward specific to COVID-19. Keep your organizational needs in mind, but simultaneously assess the seriousness of the coronavirus and its risks to you and the people in your company. Aside from that, have a protocol in place for monitoring daily, hourly and emergency information, and conveying them to your employees.
Have an HR helpline in place
Develop an HR helpline for those who are feeling overwhelmed, and encourage transparent communication within teams so that effective measures are taken, and panic and fear are addressed. The HR helpline can consist of health counsellors and experts who can guide, assist and comfort those who are affected by it, either directly or indirectly.
Setup Covid-19 detection teams near the entrances. Have medical teams recognize symptoms and connect the sick employees to the HR helpline. Help the sick employees self-isolate and quarantine themselves either in a hospital or at home.
Tackle misinformation with the right information
With all the misinformation and fear surrounding the COVID-19, it’s highly likely that employees would have several unanswered questions and concerns. Misinformation does more harm than good and puts people in unnecessary panic-mode leading to stock-buying groceries and tissues like it’s the end of the world. An easy way to tackle the issue is at its root – by spreading the right information and keeping your employees constantly updated. The WHO publishes daily bulletins showing the impact of the virus, along with updates and developments on how to deal with the virus. They have also made documents available to the general public in order to break the myths that surround COVID-19. These updates are available on the WHO website here.
Emphasize the need for hygiene and sanitization
COVID-19 spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets from an infected person’s nose or mouth. The chances of the virus spreading are extremely high, especially if you come in close contact with an infected person. Often times an infected person may not even know that they are carrying the virus, and unknowingly spread it to many others they come in contact with. To be on the safer side, it’s best to encourage extreme sanitary practices.
An important thing to note is is that our bodies are unfamiliar to COVID-19 and so our immune systems haven’t yet figured a way to fight it. And since there’s no vaccine for it either, hygiene and sanitization are needed.
Set up hand-sanitizer dispensers at spaces all across your office, and encourage people to use them. Additionally, nudge people to carry their own sanitizers and masks with them to stay safe. Set up posters and other communication touch-points so that employees are well aware, and can take necessary precautions.
How to deal with employees who are unwell
If any employees in your organization have recently travelled abroad to any of the countries affected by the coronavirus, it is of utmost importance that you ask them to self-quarantine. Social isolation is the need of the hour, and for those who are feeling fine, they can be much more productive by staying away from the fear of falling sick. And this is possible only if they avoid social gatherings and crowded places. Any person travelling to affected areas should be asked to complete the necessary check-ups and quarantine before they come in contact with anyone else. If you find that someone in your company may be showing flu-like symptoms, ask them to go home and get it checked immediately, and stay indoors until they recover. Again, social isolation only works if everyone decides to work from home. Discuss within your teams and find the best ways to communicate this to all the employees in your company, especially those who are yet to travel, have traveled, or others who are showing flu-like symptoms characteristic to COVID-19.
Cut down travel, set processes for effective work-from-home
The WHO has set down written guidelines for corporate travel in light of COVID-19, which you can access here. Ideally, it’s best you avoid travel for your own safety, but in cases where you absolutely must, do so after having read and followed precautionary measures.
Apart from all of these, one of the most important things you can do as an employer is to facilitate smooth workflows for your teams. Many may not be used to the system of working from home and there are chances of slacking in performance. To prevent such issues from happening, it is best that you discuss your options in order to improve the process of working from home. If that means providing employees with laptops and better systems of functionality, make sure to leverage on them.
Lastly, it’s very important to remember that clear communication is key during times like these. Be transparent and open with employees at every juncture – both about the severity of the situation, as well as the tasks and to-do’s that are to be done in order to avoid loss of time and inefficiencies in work.
Share this article with your HR team. Help them frame clear policy guidelines. Remember, constant communication is the most useful tool to fight this pandemic!