As the situation continues to evolve, we want to provide tools and resources so our members can take preventative measures. We’ve compiled resources developed by Arlington County, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to provide businesses and their employees the necessary information they need to ensure a healthy workforce.
Employers should be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from the coronavirus while ensuring continuity of operations. As with all illnesses, sick employees should stay home and away from the workplace, use cough and sneeze etiquette, frequently clean hands with soap and water, and routinely clean commonly touched surfaces.
Healthy habits to help prevent the coronavirus include:
- Avoid close contact: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, keep your distance from others.
- Stay home when you are sick: Stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick to prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth: Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Cover your mouth and nose: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands: Washing your hands often for 20 seconds will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand rub with at least 60% Ethyl Alcohol.
- Practice other good health habits: Use regular household cleaning spray or wipe to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces at home, work or school.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of the Coronavirus to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
Preparation in advance of employees getting sick:
- Determine whether flex working is an option: Review human resources policies and explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours. Supervisors should educate employees that if they become sick they should telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved.
- Create an employee communications plan: Establish a process to communicate the latest Coronavirus information to employees and business partners (utilize the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Workplace Tips For Employees). Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumors, and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.
- Decide how to handle spikes in absenteeism: In some communities, early childhood programs and K-12 schools may be dismissed, particularly if Coronavirus worsens. Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children if dismissed from school.
- Coordinate with state and local health officials: Coordination with state and local health officials is strongly encouraged for all businesses so that timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each location where their operations reside. Given the intensity of an outbreak may differ according to geographic location, local health officials will be issuing guidance specific to their communities. Also, employers should take the time now to learn about plans in place in each community where they have a business by contacting their local public health department.
- Make a business continuity plan: Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, consider digital meetings, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).
Precautions to take when employees become sick:
- Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible: Consistent with public health guidance, permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member, and that employees are aware of these policies. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Employees should notify their supervisor if they are sick and won’t be coming into the office.
- Local decision making: Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions based on the conditions in each locality.
- Employee travel: Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
- Separate sick employees: CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
- Social distancing: Plan to minimize exposure between healthy employees and also between those employees and the public, if public health officials call for social distancing.
- Workplace hygiene: Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.
In addition to these recommended strategies, Arlington County has an updated webpage on what the public needs to know from the Arlington County Public Health Division that includes information on the symptoms of the illness, who is at risk, and how you can protect yourself. For more resources, the Chamber also has a webpage that includes compiled resources on the coronavirus pandemic. We are monitoring the situation and will continue to provide useful tools and resources as they become available.