The coronavirus outbreak is causing panic all over the world and U.S. workplaces are no different. As the number of cases across the country rises, reports say the virus could boost the need for remote work in nearly every state.
While it may feel challenging to alleviate the anxiety associated with the virus, having a preparedness plan in place can help to stem employee fears and create a safe work environment for your entire team. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you create a plan for your organization.
Keep your team informed about the latest news and updates
As news updates continue to roll out on an almost constant basis, it can be hard to make sense of the latest reports and the effect they might have on your team. To ensure that your employees have access to the most accurate information, it’s important to provide them with official updates and best practices for how to prevent the spread of the disease.
If you haven’t done so already, send a company-wide email highlighting CDC guidance on how to prevent exposure in the workplace. This includes washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and using tissues to catch coughs and sneezes. This is a great way to help employees get a sense of the true risks associated with the virus and a clear understanding of what they can do to protect themselves and others.
Ask team members to stay home if they’re feeling unwell
Keeping your team informed is a great start but to ensure that they stay healthy and protected, it’s important to encourage sick team members to stay home — especially if they’ve recently traveled to one of the areas identified by the CDC as having widespread disease transmission. This includes China, South Korea, Iran and Italy, and the list is being updated regularly.
With cold and flu season still going strong, coronavirus isn’t the only risk factor for your organization, so it’s important to emphasize that it’s best to stay home even if sick employees don’t believe they’ve been exposed to the virus. If a team member starts feeling sick while at work, encourage them to go home and to consult with their doctor about their symptoms.
Develop a remote work strategy
If you don’t already have a remote work strategy in place, this is the time to create one. If your team is based in a single office, consider adding relevant remote work tools such as Slack and Zoom to your existing workflow. This is a great way to keep everyone connected in case you’re forced to work from home for a while.
If you already have a remote strategy in place, or if your team is spread across multiple offices, assess your current work structure to see what’s working well and what can be improved. For example, if your team requires additional tools or software to effectively do their jobs, consider looking into the free services currently being offered by tech companies such as Google and Microsoft that can make remote work more efficient. Whenever possible, offer ways for employees to attend meetings remotely and encourage managers to work with their teams to create an effective remote workflow.
Make communication an ongoing priority
Above all, make sure to keep the lines of communication open. As circumstances shift, it can be hard to know what information to believe and what to ignore. To help your employees stay calm and informed, send regular updates with the latest expert guidance and be sure to let them know what you’re doing to help protect them. Whenever possible, provide a contact for team members to reach out to if they have questions or concerns.
While taming anxiety can feel challenging as updates about the coronavirus continue to dominate the news cycle, offering employees a playbook for addressing the issue can help maintain a calm and productive workplace during stressful times.
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