Businesses of all types and sizes are being disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The ability for a business to remain productive is being strained from all directions, including employee, customer and supplier concerns.
One of the most important things as a business leader that you can do now is to implement recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in your workplace. This will show employees, customers and suppliers that you care about their health and livelihood, and that you will do everything possible to make your workplace a safe haven during these uncertain times.
Leadership in Uncertainty
People look to leadership for assurance. When faced with the challenge and uncertainty of the COVID-19 outbreak and their risk of exposure in the workplace, people would rather know the truth than dwell on the worst-case scenarios residing in their imaginations. An abundance of precaution and communication from leadership will reduce uncertainty, speculation and fear, and lead to rational decisions on how to proceed with business in a safe and healthy manner. Assurance from leadership that you have the best interests and health of employees, customers and suppliers in mind will help alleviate some of the stress on your business.
Included below is the CDC's Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers. You can delve deeper into their recommendations at cdc.gov.
Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
Recommended strategies for employers to use now:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home
- Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
- Ensure that your sick-leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
- Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
- Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
- Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
- Separate sick employees:
- The CDC recommends employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
- Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees:
- Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
- Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95 percent alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
- Provide soap, water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
- Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning
- Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
- No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
- Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps:
- Check the CDC’s Travel Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found on the CDC website.
- Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
- Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
- If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care, or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help them locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.
- Additional measures in response to currently occurring sporadic importations of COVID-19:
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
How are you preparing for the future?
OneAccord Principals are business owners, C-level executives and entrepreneurs who have guided companies through turbulent times. We can help you use this time to plan strategically for what's ahead.
About the Author
John Aiello has an impressive background of global leadership, sales and business development, engineering, manufacturing and materials that enables him to take a wholistic approach to revenue and EBITDA growth.
He has a proven track record of aligning and leading all functions within multinational/multi-plant organizations, effectively utilizing resources and core competencies, and applying innovative and best practices towards capitalizing on global market opportunities in changing markets.
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