Despite early assurances from politicians that COVID-19 would disappear by the summer, it continues to pose a high risk to Americans, as well as people across the world.
The United States is averaging around 230,000 new cases each week, showing that far from disappearing, COVID-19 continues to accelerate.
Most states now allow businesses to remain open to some capacity, taking some of the strain off of the economy. But if you’re a business owner, what can you do to ensure that everyone stays safe?
Keep reading to learn about all the steps you need to take to ensure that your employees stay safe during COVID-19.
Create an Emergency Plan
In order to make sure that you and your employees stay safe, you’ll need to have a safeguard in case something happens. The best way to do that is by creating an emergency plan.
Creating a plan is one of the best ways to figure out what your company needs to do to stay safe. It serves as a template to help you and your employees identify where you feel safe, as well as which areas you need to work on.
For example, while creating the plan, you might realize that if someone gets sick in the accounting department, it will then spread to other areas of the office on account of the department’s location. This can give you the foresight to preemptively take action.
Of course, an emergency plan also helps you and your employees know how to respond if something does go wrong. If someone gets sick, your plan will help ensure that no one else gets infected, as well.
Look Into How to Make Working at Home Possible
If you’ve been hesitant about letting your employees work from home in the past, now might be the time to begin allowing it. In fact, the health and safety of you and your employees might depend on it.
Depending on the industry that your business operates in, creating a work from home policy might be easy. For other businesses, it might require long meetings spent planning how everything will work.
Although it might be inconvenient, remember that the right policy can make it easier. Set up guidelines for things such as work hours and project management to ensure that your employees work just as effectively (or more so) as they do in the office.
You can also take advantage of office communication programs, such as Slack. These types of programs allow you to communicate as if you were in an office.
Consider Implementing a Hybrid Work Model
If working from home the entire time is out of the question, consider implementing a hybrid system. Many schools across the country have begun to roll out this sort of a system, and many of them have been successful with it.
In a hybrid work or study system, some of your employees work from home, while others stay in the office. They then switch later in the week, with the goal being to minimize the time spent in the same place. There might be some days where everyone is at home.
Hybrid models make it easier to accommodate working from home, as most businesses have the resources and flexibility to allow some of their workforce or departments to not come into the office.
Try coordinating the schedule so that it doesn’t affect the tasks your employees need to complete.
Train Your Employees
You can have the best safety plan in the world, but if your employees don’t adhere to the guidelines that you lay out, it will all be for nothing. Make sure that your employees have the training and knowledge necessary to keep themselves and others safe.
All of your employees need to follow health guidelines (more on those later). While chatting with other workers at the water cooler might be fun, it won’t be worth it if they end up sick later on. Be strict and hold people accountable for their actions.
You’ll also want to make sure that they know how to respond in different types of situations. For example, if your employees practice social distancing and don’t wear masks, make sure that they cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.
Keep Everyone Updated
Make a priority to keep managers, employees, customers, and anyone else relevant in the loop. Aside from helping everyone stay on the page, providing people with regular updates will also help them stay safe.
Stay up to date with the current COVID-19 statistics in your area. Consider the rate of infection, number of people infected, and total cases per one million people. Monitor all of these factors and relay any trends or updates to those you work with.
If people are working at home, regular meetings are even more important. Try to keep them short and sweet, but make sure everyone is getting the information that they need.
Ensure That Everything Stays Clean
Of course, now more than ever is a time to really think hard about how effective your current cleaning processes are. More often than not, you’ll need to improve them and make them more intensive.
Instruct your employees to wipe down surfaces on a regular basis, especially surfaces that people often touch. In offices, these include areas such as door handles, keyboards and mice, and anything near the reception area.
Push your employees to wash their hands as soon as they get to the office, as well as periodically throughout the day. You should also have hand sanitizer all around the office to encourage people to use it.
It might not be a bad idea to have a disinfecting service come to your office now and again either.
Follow CDC Guidelines
Regardless of whether your business has two employees or 50, they all need to follow CDC guidelines. There can’t be any exceptions or bending of the rule, as if one person does that, it can lead to others getting sick.
Here are some of the major health guidelines laid out by the CDC.
Sure, it might not be the most comfortable thing in the world, but wearing masks is essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Masks help trap particles and droplets, stopping them from spreading to other people.
If any of your employees refuse to wear a mask, wear them incorrectly, or take their masks off, there should be consequences.
If anyone doubts the effectiveness of masks, remind them that numerous studies have demonstrated their effectiveness.
For example, in one study, two stylists in a hair salon unknowingly had COVID-19, and proceeded to give 139 clients haircuts over a week-long period. None of the people who visited the salon contracted the coronavirus.
Practice Social Distancing
Masks work best when used in conjunction with social distancing. Aside from wearing facial coverings, make a point to think about how you can go about spacing your employees out from one another.
If your business has the room, try pushing desks so that they are at least six feet away from one another. You can also install dividers to separate employees from one another. Just make sure to sanitize them from time to time.
If you don’t have the space to push desks away from one another, you might have to turn to a work from home or hybrid work model.
If your business operates in a market that often requires travel, be prepared to make adjustments. Health guidelines strongly recommend against any form of travel these days.
Luckily, with modern video conferencing programs, staying connected has never been easier. Programs like Zoom allow you to chat on the other side of the world, and even share your computer screen, all without having to get on a crowded airplane.
Although it may be hard to enforce, encourage your employees to avoid travel in their personal lives as well. Remind them that they form a part of a team, and that requires them to think about the wellbeing of other people, in addition to their own.
Play It Safe With COVID-19
Although countries are beginning to roll out vaccines, now is not the time to become lax. COVID-19 still poses a very real threat to the majority of individuals across the world. Take steps to ensure that you and those around you stay safe.
Do you now have a better idea of how you can go about keeping your business safe during the pandemic? If you do, stay safe, and remember to check out some of our other posts for more business tips that will help you stay healthy and successful.