Indeed Inc. has instructed all its employees – including more than 1,600 in Austin – to work from home. Indeed, said it had also decided to halt all business travel and cancel all near-term Indeed-hosted events.
Experts warn that coronavirus (officially COVID-19) could spread rapidly in cities like New York and other cities where the public heavily relies on mass transportation. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called on Americans to start preparing for potential coronavirus outbreak. This means employers must prepare and take necessary measures to protect their workers while staying open for business. Refer to “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employer” from CDC for businesses:
Small and large corporations must understand various steps they need to take for business continuity as well as workers’ protection. There is a good business guidance available from CDC, Harvard Business Review (HBR), SHRM, World Economic Forum, articles in New York Times and other news agencies on the subject.
Listed below are important points and resources the large and small organization could consider in developing an emergency plan and respond to the coronavirus emergency.
The companies need a governance program and an infectious-disease management plan. In the absence of a plan, a cross-functional team consisting of legal, HR, information technology and coronavirus coordinator will assist in managing and decision making. The corporate emergency management plan can also help in determining the teams that need to participate in decision making.
Questions for consideration
- How can we best protect our employees from exposure in the workplace?
- When should we exclude workers or visitors from the workspace?
- Should we revise our benefits policies in cases where employees are barred from the worksite or we close it?
- Have we maximized employees’ ability to work remotely?
- Do we have reliable systems for real-time public health communication with employees?
- Should we revise our policies around international and domestic business travel?
- Should we postpone or cancel scheduled conferences or meetings?
Read the article in HBR – 8-Questions-Employers-Should-Ask-About-Coronavirus – to know how to address the questions above.
Plan for today and future
The companies need to plan not just for the current outbreak but for the next year too. There is already a discussion that the virus may reoccur and maybe stronger next winter.
An article Coronavirus-Infectious-Disease-Plans SHRM provides the following guidance on an effective pandemic plan to address the following:
- Workplace safety precautions.
- Employee travel restrictions.
- Provisions for stranded travelers unable to return home.
- Mandatory medical check-ups, vaccinations or medication.
- Mandatory reporting of exposure, such as employees reporting to employers and employers reporting to public health authorities.
- Employee quarantine or isolation.
- Facility shutdowns.
The article How-Should-Business-Prepare-for-Coronavirus contains practical approaches to planning for coronavirus. Articles states that businesses must prepare for the following:
- Test home-working technology – Do not wait and test the technology right away. If the schools and public transportation are closed, area or city is quarantined then you may not have a chance to fix the problem like microphone not working, video conferencing software not working, etc.
- Review and prepare policies relating to remote working and sick pay – Will you pay employees who are asked to self-isolate? Employees need to know where they stand before the virus is on the doorstep.
- How and what employers communicate to their employees about coronavirus is critical – When the boss speaks, people listen and the tone, accuracy, and relevance of employers’ advice can make all the difference between calm and panic. Employers should be thinking now about how they’re going to pass on vetted messages from the World Health Organization (WHO), the US’ Centers for Disease Control or Public Health England – and shouldn’t try to second-guess or exceed them.
- Global epidemic preparedness and response is underfunded – The business world needs to help fill this gap. The biggest employers have a greater part to play. There are no drugs or vaccines against coronavirus and research to deliver them requires funding too. Sizeable financial contributions are needed from high-income governments, from philanthropy, etc.
- Businesses should place posters around the workplace that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to the workplace and in other work areas where they are likely to be seen. They should also routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs with cleaning agents usually used in these areas, following the directions on the label.
Around the world
Check the link to know more about What-Global-Businesses–Are-Doing-Prepare-Staff-And-The-Workplace-Coronavirus.
- Instructions of effective hand washing were released by the British National Health Service advising that the length of time should be that of the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday to You for each wash.
- Businesses should also ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
- For employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with coronavirus should notify their supervisor and seek advice on how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
Here is another good read to know more about the company obligations: What-Are-Companies-Legal-Obligations-Around-Coronavirus