The recent ruling out of New York that all private companies must reduce onsite headcount by 75 percent is indicative of the environment of confusion and uncertainty that has characterized the coronavirus outbreak. Obviously, the ruling was made in an attempt to flatten the infection curve. But affected companies may well be left to wonder:
- How can we keep our workforces as safe as possible?
- What should we do to protect the health and well-being of employees who can’t work remotely?
Here are four best practices to help you out.
1. enable remote work whenever — and wherever — possible
This is an obvious step, but a number of employers still have office workers doing their jobs onsite. This creates more potential for viral transmission and puts workforces and the overall population more at risk. For these reasons, the members of your staff who can work from home should.
Just be sure you send them home with the right tools. Ensure they have the software and hardware they need to be productive, and make sure they know what’s expected of them while working remotely. Consider scheduling regular daily check-ins via phone or video conference to help your workers stay on top of tasks and maintain their sense of team cohesion.
If your company’s never experimented with remote work, you’ll never have a better reason to start than the coronavirus pandemic.
2. offer sick leave benefits
The CDC stresses the importance of "everyday preventative actions" in helping to flatten the curve of coronavirus infections. Surely, in that vein, nothing could be so basic as employees making the choice to stay home from work when they don't feel well. Just one problem, though: When workers don't have paid sick benefits, they're actually incentivized to do the opposite.
That's the daily reality for about one quarter of the U.S. workforce — or more than 33 million people — and it's contributing to the virus's spread. Particularly deadly outbreaks in Seattle-area nursing homes and assisted living facilities, for example, were traced to healthcare workers who showed up for work despite reportedly feeling sick, according to the CDC. More broadly, studies based on historical data show flu infection rates as much as 40 percent lower in cities that have mandatory paid leave policies compared to those that do not.
So if you don't offer paid sick leave yet, consider making a change. It's for the greater good — and bear in mind that if you don't, you just might be compelled to, thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Among many other things, the new bill seeks to extend paid leave to workers who previously did not have it.
3. prioritize onsite cleaning and disinfecting
We've all been washing our hands a lot of late. But to curb the spread of coronavirus, a similar attentiveness to hygiene should be practiced at your work site as well. Three simple guidelines should guide those efforts:
- Increase the frequency of your scheduled cleanings.
- Make sure you're using disinfectant products that the EPA characterizes as effective against coronavirus.
- Double down on cleaning "high-touch" spots like counters or handrails.
Stepping up your ordinary work site cleaning efforts might require you to make other changes, or even adjust your normal working hours. But even if that's the case, it's more than worth it. In the battle to keep employees and customers healthy and safe, we're all going to have to make adjustments.
Finally, bear in mind that it's possible for cleaning products to remove ― without necessarily deactivating — viruses. That's one of the many reasons why, if you think your work site may have been exposed to coronavirus, you should contact your local health officials to find out about next steps.
4. enhance your PPE
For businesses or functions that can’t be done remotely, you’ll need to take every precaution to protect employees' health during this public health crisis. Personal protective equipment — or "PPE" — is typically the first line of defense for workers in industrial or healthcare settings, and it’s now more important than ever.
But as coronavirus becomes a global pandemic, employers should broaden the way they conceptualize PPE to include any preventative measures they can take to limit the spread of the virus.
A few examples of low-hanging fruit:
- Start the day with wellness checks.
- Make hand sanitizer available at multiple locations across the workplace.
- Ensure that air-treatment systems are operating correctly.
- Outfit your workers with masks.
checklist: simple best practices
With much uncertainty and significant legislation still pending, it's no wonder companies are looking for guidance and best practices to protect their employees. For now, focus on the following four areas to keep your onsite teams safe from coronavirus.
Plus, if you need additional advice, check out this interim guidance that the CDC put together to help employers. Or you can connect with Randstad to learn more best practices, how we're responding to the coronavirus outbreak — and how we can solve for business pain points during this crisis.