Is Your Employer Ready for the Coronavirus?

How businesses and bosses are preparing for a possible pandemic

Conferences cancelled. Business trips delayed. Renewed interest in work-from-home policies.

Companies across the U.S. are grappling with how to deal with the potential of a widespread pandemic. Remote work has been on the rise in recent years, and this outbreak may strengthen its position as the way of the future. But few businesses have planned for a company-wide shift to telecommuting, and many more service industry businesses have no way to do so.

If you’re concerned about your company’s plan for the virus, you’re not alone. Few companies have had to plan for this type of situation in the U.S. and are only now considering their options. As a pandemic becomes more likely, here are the discussions to listen for or spark within your workplace.

Work From Home Policies

Working remotely is seen as a digital age perk, and not one that every company supports. Many managers and leaders worry about accountability and focus, but if all your employees fall ill, focus is out the window anyway.

In shadow of COVID-19, many companies including Microsoft, Amazon, and Twitter have been practicing work-from-home drills. The reality is, if you’re home, you’re not putting yourself in a situation to spread or catch the virus. It’s safer, and with technology, it’s a valid option.

Regardless of if your company has a work-from-home policy or not, it’s worth seeing how the policy will be managed and updated in the chance of a viral outbreak in your area.

Travel and Meetings

Conferences, concerts, tours, and more are being cancelled globally in fears of a pandemic, so it’s not unreasonable to wonder if your next business trip will be cancelled as well. Bring up travel concerns to your employer as soon as possible. This can also apply to those traveling to your office, like interviewees and guest speakers. If something can be done via video conference, it may be worth making the change.

Sick Leave Policies

Your company ideally should also be investigating increasing leniency in sick leave policies. The CDC is asking for companies to waive needs for doctor notes due to the demands that doctors are already facing with the virus.

There is also the reality that it may not be an employee who falls ill, but one of their family members. Given COVID-19’s possible gestation period of nearly two weeks, it’s short-sighted to ask someone to come to work when they’re caring for a sick person. Knowing your company’s stance on these issues will help you plan for proper care of yourself and those who count on you.

A Clean Office

COVID-19 is passed from person to person via water droplets containing the virus. These droplets can live on the surfaces of railings, desks, doorknobs, and the like for up to 9 days. The hotel industry especially is in a bind to increase cleanliness and protect their staff, with some business focusing on installing hand sanitizers as one method to help employees fend off the virus.

For your office, if remote work is not possible, it’s worth asking them what their policies are regarding office sanitation, and if more hand sanitizer stations can be implemented. Washing your hands is the best way to kill germs, but it’s easier for a company to buy Purell than install a new sink.

This goes without saying, but for many in the janitorial and service industries, sick days and work-from-home are rarely given. While you might be able to avoid Dave in Accounting who won’t stop coughing, there is a likelihood that many employees won’t have that luxury. Be thoughtful as you consider the people who clean the doorknobs.

While the coronavirus is causing worldwide anxiety, it’s important to remember the best thing you can do to protect yourself is wash your hands and keep those hands away from your face. Many people do not have the luxury of working from home, and many more small businesses risk losing everything if a nation chooses to self-quarantine. Have empathy for those in all communities, and encourage your employer to use this time to make a plan for the next time.