Preparing for and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19

COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, has been spreading rapidly throughout the world. Originating in China, there are now more than 100,000 confirmed cases across the world and more than 250 confirmed in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) expects the spread of the virus to continue and has implemented guidelines for both individuals and businesses on how to handle the unavoidable spread of the disease. From washing your hands for twenty seconds to two weeks of self-quarantine after international travel, these guidelines create challenges for individuals and organizations operating in the U.S.

As an employer, you must balance your organizational productivity with the safety and well-being of your employees. But how do you do this in the face of unknown and unavoidable diseases? The CDC encourages organizations to implement an infectious-disease management plan to ensure the safety of employees and the continued productivity of your organization. Some organizations already have a plan in place, but most American businesses do not and are not prepared to handle the ramifications of a worldwide virus like COVID-19. Creating and implementing a plan is the first step in protecting your employees. These plans should include prevention and handling of the current outbreak as well as preparations for handling prevention and potential outbreaks next year, as the disease is likely to reoccur.

An effective infectious-disease management plan will include things like workplace safety precautions, mandatory medical attention, and vaccinations, mandatory reporting if an employee (or family member of an employee) is infected or exposed, travel restrictions, quarantine guidelines, and, finally, a plan for a facility-wide shut-down. For many organizations, this means expanding their ability for employees to work from home. As we know, remote work has become more popular and been proven to increase employee innovation and creativity. In addition to these positives, being equipped for remote work can help to ensure your organization continues to run in the face of an epidemic.

After creating an effective plan to handle COVID-19 and any other infectious disease, it is important to communicate your plans to your employees, clients, and community. This will allow you to ensure they understand that your employees’ safety is your priority and that your organization will continue to exist despite the challenges presented. In addition, re-assess your current remote work, sick leave, and travel policies. The CDC guidelines suggest that sick individuals stay home, travel is restricted, and anyone who has traveled (particularly internationally) stay home for up to two weeks after their trip.  Regularly revisiting your policy and implementing new guidelines in line with your infectious-disease management plan can significantly cut down on the impact COVID-19 has on your organization.

As with any HR dilemma, educate yourself on what is needed to ensure the safety and comfort of your employees and the continuation of productivity and innovation in your organization. The panic spread by COVID-19 is strongly affecting the U.S. business world.  Ensuring that your employees are not only protected but know you have their best interests in mind can make all the difference in continuing productivity and ensuring the loyalty of your employees after the epidemic has abated. We may not be able to stop the disease from spreading, but through use of tools at our disposal and adequate infectious-disease management plans, we can decrease the risk of infection and empower our employees and our community to remain safe and productive.

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