By Westfield Insurance
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is already impacting millions of Americans, including small business owners like you. Even if you or your employees are at a low risk, you need to take steps to help reduce the spread of infection and slow down potential disruptions to your company.
Here, you'll find best practices your company can take to protect your employees and keep things running as smoothly as possible during an uncertain time.
Set Up a Work-From-Home Plan
Per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social distancing and limiting interaction to small groups is essential to helping slow down the spread of the virus.
For many small businesses, that means a major change in how you operate. To best watch out for the safety of your employees and keep your business running, it's a good time to develop a work-from-home plan.
Here's what you can do:
- Review job roles and see what work can be completed remotely and offer those employees the opportunity to work from home.
- Tap into work efficiency tools that employees can use. Businesses are using Zoom, Slack and Skype to help ensure everyone stays connected.
- Set clear guidelines around policies. Develop and outline expectations around hours, availability, response time and roles for employees working remotely.
- Develop a communication strategy so you and your employees are on the same page. In times of confusion, more communication is always better!
- If you're able, perform a test run to ensure your systems can handle people working from out of the office. For example, you might need to increase server and phone lines to meet these new needs.
It's understandable that, in instances like this, some trial and error will occur, especially if your company is doing this for the first time. A simple thing to remember? Be patient.
Prepare the Office
Not every company can have employees work from home. In this case, you still want to act as the first line of defense to help mitigate potential risk.
A good first step is to cancel or limit all in-person meetings. Social distancing is incredibly important for the foreseeable future, so keep any and all group functions as small as possible. If you have space in your office, move desks and seating areas further away so people are approximately six feet apart.
In addition, there are a few specific steps you can take to keep your workspace clean, which are in line with CDC suggestions for businesses:
- Set up clear guidelines around when it's acceptable to come into the office. If an employee is sick, encourage them to stay home, even if that means lost productivity.
- Post signs for hygiene tips in the restrooms and frequently trafficked areas. Don't forget to include information in multiple languages if you have a diverse workforce.
- Have cleaning products on hand. Make sure all restrooms have soap. Also have disinfecting wipes and necessary cleaning supplies for high-touch areas like keyboards, desks, printers and door handles.
These small steps, when done on a frequent basis, can help dramatically reduce the potential for infections to spread throughout the office.
Encourage Crystal Clear Communication
It's critical to practice good communication strategies with your employees during this time of uncertainty. If in doubt, err on the side of more open and transparent communication when possible.
Here's how to approach it:
- Only use trusted sources of information from experts and medical professionals when discussing news.
- Develop a standardized communication procedure plan for information and updates. Ideally, you want this to come from one person on a regular basis to help quell rumors and ensure everyone in the company is on the same page.
- Don't let communication lag. Encourage employees to reach out to you anytime if they are feeling concerns regarding their work and health needs.
Listen to your employees and take their concerns to heart — it's your primary goal as an employer to make sure your team is safe, comfortable and healthy.
Now is also a good time to review your business insurance. Assure America offers a variety of insurance options for businesses such as Property and Contents, Business Interruption, General and Professional Liability, Workers Compensation and Employer Liability, Products and Completed Operations, Boiler and Machinery, Automobile Liability, Inland Marine, and Fidelity and Surety Bonding. Contact one of our professionals at Assure America. We have locations in: Weirton, Wellsburg and Chester in West Virginia; Steubenville, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Liz Froment is a content marketing writer and strategist with a focus toward insurance, real estate and finance.