Kewal Kapoor, Director & Creative Strategist, CHAI Kreative and Return of Million Smiles
With the coronavirus spreading rapidly across the globe, WHO has officially declared a global pandemic. With more than one lakh people infected with the virus, which has spread to over 100 countries, caution in the face of a serious multiplicative risk is the best way to shield ourselves against COVID-19. Employers must keep track of the developments and take necessary steps to ensure a safe workplace, reassuring the faith of the employees in the management.
- Monitor daily developments – The situation surrounding the transmission of COVID-19 is highly fluid, and both the WHO and NCDC regularly update the information on their websites. As the outbreaks continue to evolve, employers must check both the websites for the latest updates. Follow their interim guidance and educate your employees so that you can plan for and be ready to respond to the developments.
- Appoint a management team – The coronavirus can disrupt your business operations without warning. So, you need to be crisis ready in case the virus enters your workplace. Make sure thre is a central point of contact and a cross-functional management team to address the issues that can arise out of a possible outbreak, including employee safety, sick leaves, external and internal messaging, workers’ compensation, and tech support. The team must have representatives from the IT, HR, communications and legal departments. Make sure the management team has sufficient authority to prepare and act swiftly in the face of changing circumstances, while possessing flexibility to make appropriate adjustments according to business needs.
- Reinforce the practice of proper hygiene – It is the duty of employers to remind employees of the safety precautions and preventive measures to reduce the risk of contracting the virus or limiting its spread. Frequently wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds, and follow proper cough hygiene. Avoid contact with people who exhibit symptoms of a cough, cold, or fever. Advise employees to stay at home when they are sick, and ensure that you clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Limit or suspend business travel – If your line of work involves a lot of travel, then you should consider limiting or prohibiting business travels to regions and countries that pose a high transmission risk. Refer to updated risk stratification charts, and factor in the size, the geographic distribution and the epidemiology of the outbreak, to issue travel notices and make management decisions regarding public health. If there is widespread transmission, as in China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea, then travel must be avoided at all costs. If there is sustained community transmission, as in Japan, then employees with chronic conditions must avoid travel. Others must quarantine themselves for a period of two weeks upon returning.
- Consider offering telecommuting for non-essential employees – If the employee’s presence in the workplace is non-essential, encourage them to work remotely. Factor in the security risks of allowing them to work remotely and ensure that you provide equipment and IT support to employees who can but haven’t ever done so. Make sure that employees are paid for the hours they put in. It is natural to see an increase in absenteeism in areas where schools remain closed if your employees have young children. In such cases, implement cross-training protocols to ensure that essential job functions continue uninterrupted. Do not base telecommuting decisions on the national origin of your employees as it is discriminatory and creates a hostile work environment.
As the virus continues to spread rapidly on a global level, new outbreaks and developments are natural. Employers must maintain calm, communicate clearly with their workforce, and take necessary health and safety precautions. Monitor the situation closely, and make sure your stay prepared for contingencies.