There has been a lot of talk the last few days about the Coronavirus and the effect it may have if (or when) it begins to spread in the US. The CDC released new information this week and it has created even more buzz.
To be honest, it’s a lot to digest, and although the likelihood of a widespread outbreak still seems low, only time will tell what the effects will be. In the meantime, in addition to following the recommendations from the CDC about prevention (seriously, wash your hands people!), it’s probably not a bad time to think about the bigger picture preparations that you and your business can undertake now.
I am definitely not an authority on the Coronavirus, and I’m relying on the information floating around to the rest of the general public, but when I hear things like “be prepared to work at home,” it resonates with me. And, being proactive is never a bad thing. As an employer, you may start to get questions about the process and procedures surrounding your company, and your team working remotely.
Review Your Work from Home Policy
If you have a work from home policy it’s a good time to look at it and determine if it is up to date and relevant to your current work environment. Oftentimes these policies were written years ago, and may not have been looked at since. With remote work becoming more desired and commonplace, now is a great time to check it out. If you do not have a policy in place, now may be the time to implement one.
Review Your Security and IT Policies
Just like the remote working policy, your security and IT policies should also be reviewed to check that they are up to date. Ensure that your obligations about privacy and security to your clients, customers, and employees will not be compromised if you have team members that need to work remotely. Establish boundaries about what work can, and cannot, be done remotely.
Travel and Meetings
Be in the know about travel precautions and restrictions. Having a contingency plan and encouraging conference calls is key. Do you have a reliable video-conferencing tool, and does your team feel comfortable using it, are two great questions to ask yourself.
If you are in the business of planning large scale meetings and events, it may be good to know the cancellation policies, and insurance options when dealing with vendors and out of pocket costs.
Encourage Healthy Habits
Have hand sanitizer available and convenient, and encourage use in conjunction with hand washing. Also make sure to have things like disinfecting wipes, spray, and tissues on hand and readily available.
Encourage sick employees to stay home. This is a tough one, we all know that person who never stays home, even when they are miserably sick. It is also good to remind your team to avoid close contact with those that are sick, and to advise you if they have reason to believe they may be at higher risk (ie. recent travel to high-risk areas).
Have a plan for additional flexibility with your sick leave or PTO guidelines. If the necessity arises, know how you will react, and communicate this information. It is common for employees to come to work sick because of guilt about inconveniencing others, lack of available time off, fear of not being paid, and fear of falling behind.
Even if your employees are not sick, they may be impacted in the event of school or daycare facility closures, which can create a childcare nightmare. Addressing these fears ahead of time will not only help with your preparedness, but may even strengthen your company culture in the long run.
This is a very abbreviated list of steps that can be taken to be prepared should a more widespread outbreak affect your business. Here are a few other resources that may be helpful in your planning: