If you think about the places you’re most likely to catch a virus, your workplace should be high on the list.
Where else are you in such close contact with others, sharing spaces, equipment and air?
Florida has two cases of the coronavirus in Manatee and Hillsborough counties that have now been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although health officials say the threat remains low to Floridians, workplaces should still be proactive in preventing employees from contracting or spreading the virus, also known as COVID-19.
This is what the CDC recommends workplaces do:
1. Encourage sick employees to stay home.
Ensure employees know that even if they have a minor respiratory illness, they should not come into work. That means even a slight fever — 100.4 degrees — should be reason enough to use a sick day or work remotely. This limits the possibility of spreading infection in the office.
Further, the CDC encourages employers to make sure they have flexible sick time policies. If your business works with or relies on temporary or contract employees without sick time, the CDC says to develop “non-punitive leave policies.” It also instructs employers to not expect a letter from a doctor to validate a respiratory illness or symptoms. Doctors offices and hospitals may be too busy to provide such a thing.
Also, if an employee shows up coughing, sneezing or with shortness of breath, separate them from their coworkers and send them home sick or to work remotely.
2. Go over hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
Remind your employees they should be washing their hands for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Ensure you have soap dispensers full and offer free hand sanitizer. Be sure those supplies are maintained.
Remind employees to avoid touching their faces and to cover their mouths and nose with a tissue while they cough or sneeze. Make sure to have tissues, or else tell employees to use their upper sleeve to cover their faces as they cough or sneeze. Tell employees to immediately use alcohol-based rub or wash their hands after sneezing or coughing.
3. Make sure your workplace is clean.
The CDC says workplaces should ensure surfaces that are touched regularly are also cleaned regularly: workstations, counter tops, door knobs. But public health officials also says there’s no need for additional disinfectant beyond routine cleaning.
Employees should also be provided wipes or basic cleaning supplies to clean frequently touched items such as remote controls, keyboards and desks.
4. Be in contact with employees who need to travel.
Tell employees to check the CDC’s online traveler’s health notices for the latest guidance for each country.
Remind them to check themselves before they begin traveling: Are they coughing or sneezing? Do they have even a minor fever? If yes, tell them to stay home. Employees should also know to contact their supervisor if they become sick or start showing symptoms while working abroad.
Make sure your employees know your company’s policy for obtaining medical care while out of the country. Contact a health care provider or medical assistance company overseas so an employee can easily find treatment should it be needed.
5. Prepare an infectious disease outbreak response plan.
In addition to taking the above steps, be in touch with the workplaces in your supply chain. Share best practices with them if they’re unaware.
Plan for how your business will continue to operate if an increasing number of people have to call out of work. How much of your business can be handled through telecommunications, such as video calls online?
If public officials move to recommend people maintain a physical distance from each other, plan how your business will respond. Will it stagger shifts to decrease people’s contact with one another or offer flexible work hours and telecommuting options?
For more information from the CDC about managing a workplace during an outbreak go here.