What small businesses can do to plan ahead in the midst of the coronavirus
Large companies based in Silicon Valley and Washington are bracing themselves against the coronavirus. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and Google have asked workers to work from home, if possible.
But what can small businesses who don’t have the same resources as tech giants do? Here are some common-sense guidelines to help stymie concerns and spread of the virus.
What is COVID-19, aka the coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses responsible for respiratory infections and the common cold. Named for their crown-like microscopic appearance, they also include more serious viruses like SARS, MERS, and COVID-19, the virus responsible for the global coronavirus outbreak the world is facing today. COVID-19 is more commonly referred to as “the coronavirus.”
The outbreak started in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has spread to six continents, infecting more than 100,000 people and killing more than 3,000. Stock markets worldwide are down, people are nervous, and the WHO is urging world leaders to pull together a better response.
Employees who are sick should stay home. Period.
Workplaces are having to think about coronavirus measures, too. Not sure where to start with your small business? We’ve got a checklist to help you keep your workplace safe from the coronavirus.
Know the signs and symptoms
Fever, lethargy, dry cough are the most common signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Some individuals also experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, and a sore throat. About ⅙ of coronavirus patients become seriously ill and have difficulty breathing. Older people and those with existing health conditions are at a higher risk for developing these complications.
Mandate that sick or at-risk employees stay home
Employees who are sick should stay home. Period. Coronavirus testing kits are still not widely available, and people who are sick — be it common cold or not — shouldn’t be coming into the office. Make this policy clearly known and understood so employees don’t fear retribution for their absence. Employees who have recently traveled to a high-risk area or who have had contact with a coronavirus-infected person should be barred from entering the workplace for at least 14 days while their risk of contamination is evaluated.
Reassess workplace cleanliness
While there’s been a maelstrom of misinformation and confusion surrounding the coronavirus, there’s one thing health experts and leaders worldwide are on the same page about: washing your hands or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the best way to prevent getting sick. Make it easy for employees to keep clean by placing hand sanitizer throughout the workplace and ensuring soap is well stocked.
Some other measures to take are:
- Get rid of sponges and towels: These are a harbor for viruses and encourage transmission from person to person.
- Increase the frequency of cleaning: Especially of common fomites like door knobs, elevator buttons, and water taps. Anything people touch should be cleaned multiple times per day.
- Encourage employees to bring their own utensils: If your office doesn’t have a dishwasher, utensils are a particularly virulent way to spread illness. Ask employees to bring their own
Rethink your remote policy
If you’re not already a remote-friendly company, now may be the time to start. Collaboration tools and video calls make remote work a viable option for most office workers, and it’s likely your team will be more productive from home rather than steeping in anxiety and frustration at having to come into the office.
While there’s been a maelstrom of misinformation and confusion surrounding the coronavirus, there’s one thing health experts and leaders worldwide are on the same page about: washing your hands or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the best way to prevent getting sick.
We understand this isn’t a viable reality for all SMBs — brick and mortar shops, construction businesses, and real estate firms, for example, but if and when possible, consider remote work.
Discuss proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
Review sanitary measures and place posters around the workplace reminding employees of proper hygiene etiquette. This includes coughing into your elbow, sneezing into a tissue and immediately disposing of it, and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot, soapy water, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Review your PTO and sick leave policies
If the coronavirus continues on its current trajectory, as expected, it’s likely employees will need time off to recover from an illness or care for others. Consider reviewing your small business’ PTO and sick leave policies in light of this global health emergency, and don’t require employees with respiratory illnesses to bring a doctor’s note.
Postpone business travel to high risk areas
The CDC has already issued level-3 warnings, “reconsider all nonessential travel” for China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, but many companies and organizations are postponing all business travel indefinitely. The technology available to us in 2020 makes global communication and collaboration possible. SBOs can help reduce risk and put employees at ease by pressing pause on company travel for now.