In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China. Two months later, it was classified as a pandemic, with Europe being the epicentre. People are self-isolating away from their normal communities of co-workers and families which may cause additional anxiety in these uncertain times.
In the UK, it has been estimated by scientists that the outbreak will last until Summer, or even longer. In times like these—it is especially crucial to support human relationships and our communities. That’s why we’ve written this informal guide for businesses and organisations on how to show that you care for your team.
1. Set up a Covid-19 contingency procedure for your employees
First and foremost, this is a good opportunity for businesses to address the concerns and fears of their employees. For organisations situated in metropolitan areas—i.e, London, Hong Kong, New York—it is worth remembering that some employees may be located far from immediate family members whilst also being citizens of countries deeply afflicted by the pandemic. Transparent and empathetic communication from the management will help mitigate some worries.
This procedure should include an employee framework for working from home (WFH). In the last couple of days, the world has witnessed several countries across the globe implement stringent lockdowns. For example, the UK, Malaysia, Italy, Spain and more. Drawing up this framework beforehand ensures that the company is well-prepared in the event of such. While working from home is inevitably going to be less familiar territory as compared to working in the office, proper guidelines alongside clear communication between departments and individuals will help ease the transition.
If the option of working from home is not plausible, companies can consider the method of ‘staggered working’ with varying groups of employees having different start and end times, effectively enforcing an increased social distance. Working in remote groups may also be a solution. Flexible arrangements should also be made for individuals that are most vulnerable to the virus. For example, employees with underlying health issues.
If the workplace is still open, organisations should ensure that essential supplies—sanitizer, hand soap and antibacterial wipes are well stocked within the office and placed in prominent positions. The latest research has also indicated that the Covid-19 virus can last up to 3 days on glass, wood and plastic surfaces, making it necessary that workplaces be deep cleaned regularly.
2. Inform employees on best practices to care for themselves
In the time of panic, it would be highly useful to have a document that will mitigate some false/inaccurate information your employees might be receiving (garlic consumption does not kill the virus!). Organisations may find it effective to circulate a document containing the aforementioned information within their teams.
The said document can include information regarding:
- How does the virus spread
- Symptoms that differentiate between Covid-19, the common cold and flu
- The next steps to carry out in the event an employee feels ill
- Encourage your employees to stay at home if ill
3. Encourage your employees to stay at home if ill
This week, the UK has announced that individuals that have developed a fever or continuous cough should self-quarantine, even if the symptoms are mild. Household members of a potentially infected person should also do the same.
However, in events such as this, some employees may fear that taking sick leave would result in them being penalised by their organisations. For public safety, they need to be assured otherwise. Further, the UK has already entered the community transmission phase of Covid-19 and this measure allows employees to maintain a big picture strategy and ensure that the rest of the team does not get infected.
4. Go digital
Inevitably for most businesses—B2B and B2C—employees in account management or sales are traditionally required to attend meetings and the like. In order to protect your employees and your clients/customers, consider using other options as a replacement for face-to-face interaction. Some great tools include: Zoom, Slack and Google Hangouts.
5. Mental health support
The outbreak of Covid-19 may be stressful for some individuals, the anxiety over a disease can produce significant reactions within us. Conversely, working from home and being isolated for a prolonged period of time can also get fairly lonely.
What managers can do is to schedule regular one-to-one check-ins with their employees. Even if there are no pending items to discuss, it can still be a good opportunity for employees to offer emotional wellbeing support for their staff whilst also building stronger relationships within the team. Sometimes even offering the option for employees to reach out to their managers during this difficult period is enough to make them feel reassured.
During the recruitment season, companies usually stress the importance of culture and caring for their employees. However, this is the time when that commitment is being put to a test. One thing that Covid-19 has continuously highlighted is the need to focus on the human aspect of things. And it is important to remember that every organisation, every business is ultimately made up of individuals—be it in large groups or small teams.