[caption id="attachment_5767" align="alignright" width="300"] Image courtesy of Texas Department of State Health Services website.
The entire world is reacting to the spread of the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus), and as a business owner, it can be difficult to navigate through this issue. There are questions concerning the impact this virus could have on our businesses, our employees and our communities. Knowledge is power, and in this case, knowledge is the best weapon against the spread of the virus and the panic that invariably follows. Here’s a quick look at a few of the more common questions and concerns we’re hearing from employers:
Is COVID-19 so highly contagious that there’s nothing you can do to avoid catching it if you’re exposed?
Don’t be a victim! There are always steps you can take to protect both yourself, your loved ones, and your community. The three most important things that you can do to avoid infection are true for this virus, just as they are for other viruses like the common cold or the flu:
- Wash your hands frequently with warm soapy water.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with the crook of your elbow or tissue if you have to sneeze or cough. If you use a tissue, dispose of it immediately and wash your hands afterward.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes. Your hands touch a LOT of surfaces and can pick up viruses. Your hands can then transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth, which then enters your body and can make you sick.
How do I manage an employee who’s been traveling for business and is returning from an area where the virus is spreading?
Most employees who travel regularly for business are in exempt positions - meaning the employee is typically being paid for the job that they do, not the hours that they work. Therefore, requiring the employee to work from home upon return for a period of not less than two weeks,
and not more than three weeks, should be a reasonable approach to avoiding the unnecessary risk of exposure to your employees. In these instances, Achilles Group is your partner to ensure that you have a policy in place to cover these types of incidents, as well as a process or guideline for managing remote working relationships to ensure effectiveness and accountability for results.
How do I manage an employee who’s been traveling for personal reasons and is returning from an area where the virus is spreading?
An employee returning from personal travel in an area where the virus is spreading can be a scary thought for an employer, and undoubtedly, for the employees who work with the individual. These individuals are likely to know about a colleague’s travel plans in advance, and that makes it easy to spread panic or concern throughout the company, often unintentionally. As a business owner, how do you keep this from blooming into a full-blown panic? Achilles Group can provide several recommendations for managing these situations, both proactively and reactively.
When possible, speak to the employee before travel takes place and work together to determine the best course of action upon their return. Letting them know our expectations upon return, and communicating our expectations concerning expectations for travel during the COVID-19 outbreak with our team can ease fears of infection and avoid unnecessary panic. Additionally, Achilles Group can work with you to outline a solution for remote work, and where that is not possible, navigating the concerns of pay while requiring self-isolation before returning to active duty.
What do I do if one of my employees is positive for COVID-19?
Achilles Group can help you navigate the uncharted waters of dealing with a COVID-19 result from an employer’s perspective. While it may seem like common sense, (just keep the person from coming into the office) the actuality is a bit more complicated. If the employee was working at the time that they became ill, your Worker’s Compensation policy may come in to play. Additionally, depending on your company size and other qualifiers, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or Americans with Disabilities (ADA) regulations may also be cause for consideration.
Should I be concerned about parts or supplies imported from areas where the virus is active?
Concerns about contracting the virus from parts and supplies from infected areas isn’t the true concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial
goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.” Because this is a new form of the virus, they have not yet determined the virus's life on surfaces, which varies based on the type of surface, humidity, heat, cold and other environmental factors. Studies have shown that coronaviruses like COVID-19 typically do not survive on surfaces for more than several days, and maybe not more than a few hours.
Perhaps the more pressing concern for businesses is the shortage in supplies and/or parts and the interruption of shipments internationally and domestically for materials from infected areas. China is a major exporter for the world and the disruption of its production cycles has had an impact on world markets, supply and in response, demand. Operational challenges are probably the more pertinent concern for business owners today.
Achilles Group works with our clients regularly to talk through and identify solutions for operational issues just like this on a regular basis. Additionally, we encourage you to use down-time productively by looking at other areas within your business that can benefit from better organization, documentation, cleanup. Achilles Group is prepared to facilitate those conversations and identify priorities and will utilize this time to work with you on your business.
For more information about the virus itself, posters for the workplace and public spaces like breakrooms and restrooms, as well as regular, reliable updates, check out The World Health Organization's website