Guidance for all employers responding to COVID-19

COVID-19 brought fast-moving and unexpected impacts for which many existing crisis plans and teams were unprepared. And the businesses around the world are considering how to react to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation efficiently now.That’s everyone is looking at right now. This is a time when business leaders must assess their situation, their employees, and all the factors surrounding their business. To consider focusing on this general framework of thinking, so you can make smart decisions for your company. Meanwhile, by learning the right lessons from the coronaviruses and building resilience for the next crisis, businesses have an opportunity to turn the devastation of COVID-19 to their advantage.

Let’s break it down into aspects.

•   Employee/Workplace Hygiene and Safety

•   Travel Policies

•   Policies for Conference and Large Gatherings

•   Sick Leave 

•   Telecommuting 

Each of these parts involves minimizing risk of exposure as well as the risk of spreading the virus. Achieving those goals is a community-wide effort, and businesses are key parts of the puzzle.

 Employee/Workplace Hygiene and Safety

The first is employee and workplace hygiene and safety.

Employees must be encouraged to stay home if they have symptoms of respiratory illness or if someone in the family has the same symptoms. 

And then there are the basics:

•    Stop shaking hands and kissing for social contact

•    Wash your hands frequently

•    Clean your workplaces frequently and properly

•    Avoid close contact, put distance between yourself and the other people

 Business Travel Policies

Next, let’s talk about business travel policies, both domestic and international.

In general, there are several cases as follows.

•   An outright domestic travel bans

•  Non-essential travel is prohibited, where essential travel must be approved by a senior executive.

•   Or a hybrid, that bans most travel except for client travel

This can be tricky for customer service firms, especially audit and tax firms-it’s a busy season for them. Face to face with clients is the traditional model, and many firms have to rethink this.

On the international front, it’s clearer. Most are banned outright, with only some clients allowed to travel with administrative approval.  

Personal Travel Policies

On the personal travel side, this is a difficult question because it involves people’s personal lives.

But we believe that business leaders have a responsibility to protect all their employees and ensure that they have access to a reasonably safe environment.

Several companies are implementing travel logs where employees must report any personal travel. This is very necessary and important.

Here’s an example of why this is necessary and important. If an employee travels to a place and there is not a known outbreak of the virus when he is at their destination. He comes back with no symptoms, but an outbreak pops up in that place five days later.

The employee was likely there at the time of transmission in view of the incubation periods and testing windows. The employer can easily know that the employee travelled there from the his log, and take appropriate measures to prevent the possible spread of the virus in time.

Policies for Conference and Gatherings

Some are outright bans from attending outside business functions, but many are limiting the number that may be in attendance at an event. Due to the infectivity of the virus, non-essential gathering of collective activities are prohibited, necessary activities need to take protective measures.  

Participants must all wear masks, and the venue layout is different than usual, must ensure that the interval is safe enough distance. Strengthen ventilation and disinfection. Indoor often open the window ventilation, maintain air circulation. Pay attention to cover up when coughing or sneezing.    

Sick Policy

The forth area of the five-part framework is your Sick Policy.

We know that only a small number of companies had looked at this. 

But it is important to note that many of the companies already had very relaxed policies,some who even offered unlimited sick time.

Employers should expand their thinking about policy as the universe of employees who should not come to the office goes beyond those who are visibly sick.

Key things to think about:

Patients should stay at home-punishing absences can encourage reckless and dangerous behaviour that may expose others to work.  

Employees at risk of exposure should stay home-if someone has traveled to a high-risk area, or it is found that they may have come into contact with an infected person in a community setting-those people may need to be self-quarantined for at least 14 days.  

Another group to consider are employees in vulnerable populations, including those with respiratory diseases or immune system deficiencies-and even age can be a factor. Some say the age of 60, 65 or 70. Basically, the risk of infection increases with age.  

How should you handle these folks? They may be healthy enough to work, but do you want to risk having them get exposed in your work environment? Perhaps consider teleworking for these employees.

What if one of your employees has a family member with one of these diseases?And if your employees bring the virus home from the workplace, that’s not a good thing.

Again, this is all about minimizing risk of exposure.

Teleworking Policy

The final policy area is related to telecommuting.

A part of companies already had some form of teleworking in place. And many people are taking a look at altering their forms according to the virus.

The medical experts talk about the necessary to avoid being in close contact with others, and telecommuting can be important to this.

But you have to think about what’s going on within your company. Can all the work be done remotely from home? Do you have enough laptops for people to work from home? Does our IT infrastructure support more remote logins? Whether employees have an appropriate environment to work in at home.

When setting up a telecommuting policy, should it be universal telecommuting for all employees?

One example we have heard from the construction industry, where you have a project team that must be onsite.

You split that work team into two (or three or four) groups. One team works from home for two weeks while the other one is on site, and then you switch.

The goal is that if you lose a team due to exposure, you have another team available before you cannot provide the service to the client.  

In the end, we would like to say that we can minimize the spread of this virus and hopefully get on the path to recovery soon with our joint efforts. Don’t lose hope, if you need help, please contact us. We will try our best to help you.

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