Preparing the Workplace for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Since its troubling December outbreak in Wuhan, China, the Coronavirus has gained more and more public awareness as it continues to spread across the world.
The virus was declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organization on January 31st, and the CDC, as well as other public health organizations, are expressing increasing concern regarding the disease.
As a result, the CDC has henceforth issued travel notices encouraging people to take the necessary precautions when traveling to Hong Kong, Iran, and Italy, given the rise in COVID-19 cases within these countries.
What is COVID-19 and how dangerous is it?
To be clear, the virus itself is called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and it is responsible for the illness now known as the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Coronaviruses are part of a larger group of viruses that are typically common among animals, and it is rare for them to spread from said animals to humans. Regardless, it has certainly found its way to our species. So, how do you know if you have it?
Patients to date have typically expressed certain symptoms that range from mild to severe.
- Dry cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Organ Failure
It’s worth noting that some people infected with the virus have only experienced a runny nose or sore throat, while others still haven’t shown any symptoms at all.
Why? It’s likely because those individuals have stronger immune systems.
It was also reported that, among the 82 deaths that were linked to COVID-19 in Wuhan, 80% of the victims were over the age of 60, and 75% of them had health disorders that made them more vulnerable to the virus (high-blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etc).
Strategies Employers can use to Prevent COVID-19 Infections in their Workplace
COVID-19’s impact hasn’t yet reached the levels of China or Italy in the U.S. but there’s still a concern that it could reach a pandemic stage here. Rather than trying to hastily react to the problem as it continues to spread, it’s best to take preventative steps to minimize risk as much as reasonably possible.
Here are some steps that employers of local government organizations can take to keep their workplaces free of the outbreak:
Encourage sick employees to remain home
If any employees show signs of acute respiratory illness, it is recommended that they stay home and return only after their symptoms are gone.
This may sound like common sense, but a recent Accountemps survey reported that 90% of employees will go into the office despite being unwell.
Encourage clean hygiene in the workplace
We don’t mean simply bringing up clean hygiene during a Monday team meeting, but rather taking proactive steps to make it easy for members of the workplace to keep things clean.
This looks like providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles, providing alcohol-based hand rubs around the office, and doing routine wipe-downs of the most germ-ridden objects like keyboards, doorknobs, etc.
Advise employees who are traveling to take preventative measures
It’s advised that employers ask their employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before and after traveling.
Consider Teleworking Options
If the cause for concern is great enough in your area, it’s worth investigating the viability of teleworking options for your employees. Remote work is already gaining popularity in modern work culture, so for many, telecommuting wouldn’t be too drastic of a change.
Attending meetings via video calls would allow employees who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, but still feel well enough to work, to interact with their coworkers and attend important discussions. This way, no one gets left behind.
Reacting Appropriately in Light of the COVID-19 Outbreak
It is always important as employers of local government organizations to remember the rights of your employees and to protect them when necessary. One unfortunate impact of the spread of COVID-19 is the rise of anti-Chinese sentiments.
People in countries including Malaysia, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Canada have all reported instances of anti-Chinese racism. A British citizen named Sam Phan wrote in the Guardian:
“This week, my ethnicity has made me feel like I was part of a threatening and diseased mass. To see me as someone who carries the virus just because of my race is, well, just racist.”
For this reason, local government organizations should make sure that Chinese employees and American-Chinese employees are not discriminated against during this time of heightened tension.
Because of these unfortunate incidents, it may be a good time to cover the anti-harassment policies of your organization or re-conduct the relevant training altogether.
If you don’t currently have the proper training materials or simply need some help getting started, our enterprise training solutions may come in handy.
Our online courses provide a slew of convenient features that allow employees to go through training without slowing down their day-to-day.
Does this sound like something you could use? If so, don’t hesitate to explore our available compliance and risk management courses here.
Experience the proven, easy-to-use, and cost-effective benefits of online training by scheduling your free online training consultation today!