Now spread outside of China, the coronavirus takes its toll worldwide. Along with South Korea, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, France, and Germany, the United States has now confirmed signs of this deadly disease in its own home. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have confirmed cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). As of March 2nd, there are 6 confirmed deaths in the US; however, in its current state, experts say that there will be a huge outbreak soon. This relentless virus brings a lot of chaos and bewilderment to many US citizens, and leaves many wondering what they can do to protect themselves. Citizens everywhere are stocking up on bleach, face masks, gloves, and disinfectant products. People worldwide are doing what they can to prevent the virus from entering their own homes and businesses.
As preventative supplies fly off the shelves, the economy suffers. Finance experts and investors say that this illness is causing one of the worst financial plunges since the economic crisis in 2008. Stocks in Europe and Asia are plummeting because of the virus’ disruption. Along with that, the coronavirus outbreak has already taken its toll on airline revenue, resulting in a loss of $29 billion. More than 20 international airlines are suspended, and countries everywhere are preventing their citizens from traveling to China, Italy, and others. Without international travel, tourism revenue worldwide suffers. With its hold on the economy worldwide, COVID-19 is disrupting supply chains, and international companies say that business will not continue as usual.
What Happens to Businesses?
Now that COVID-19 is taking its toll on citizens and the economy, business owners everywhere are wondering what is going to happen next. Chinese businesses in the New York area are already facing major hardships because customers fear that they will get the virus. What’s next for the rest of the U.S.? What happens when (or if) the virus spreads across the states? Will businesses suffer? Will small business owners and big corporations feel the aftershock of the virus? Unfortunately there’s no way to know how businesses will succeed, or if they will succeed. Some theorize that businesses with high US sales will out-perform those with high foreign sales, but we can’t ever be sure. Although so many things are still up in the air, there are still steps business owners can take to protect employees and their businesses.
Let’s Get Down to Business
Don’t Let Sick Employees Work
Most employees expose themselves to many people throughout their shifts. Since they are surrounded by customers and fellow employees continuously, it’s important that they are healthy. Although employees may cover their coughs and sneezes with tissues and may frequently wash their hands, there is still a chance that they can spread their illnesses to others. The CDC suggests that people stay at least 3 feet away from those who are ill. If you have a sick employee on shift, you are exposing other employees and customers to this person. This, in turn, can get many people sick. The CDC suggests that sick employees should get plenty of rest (at least 24 hours), and should avoid places where people gather, such as meetings, festivals, work, concerts, and sporting events. Don’t risk the spread of viruses and bacteria– let employees rest.
Letting employees rest often has huge benefits for employers too! It’s proven that employees who have paid sick time are more productive, have fewer accidents, are less stressed, and are much less likely to spread their illnesses. Well-rested employees can bounce back from sickness easier and can continue to focus on working hard. To build a stronger workforce and a more productive team, it’s wise that employers give employees time to rest when they need to.
Limit Employee Travel
The CDC mentions that it’s important that people avoid large places of gathering, especially during a viral or bacterial outbreak. They even issued a level 3 warning recommending that travel to China should be avoided. In order to prevent employees from getting sick, employers everywhere have stopped employees from traveling. Facebook restricted employee travel to China, and now many businesses are even restricting employees from going to conferences and off-site meetings around the United States. Limiting employee travel will decrease their chance of viral exposure.
Prepare Employees for Remote Work
There’s no telling what will happen to businesses in the U.S. now that COVID-19 is present. China went as far as halting most factory production, which leaves business at a stand-still. Many companies are reconsidering their work-from-home policies because they do not know how prolonged or how severe this virus will be. In order to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and to keep business running, many businesses may find themselves managing a remote workforce. Luckily, since remote work gained popularity, it’s much easier for businesses to convert and manage a remote workforce. To prepare for remote work, here are things that business owners can do to manage their employees.
Moving from face-to-face communication to computer mediated communication can be a shock for some. Although different, communication through the internet can actually be quite as convenient and efficient as speaking in person. Slack, for example, is a communication channel that allows managers and employees to speak with one another through instant messaging. It’s an incredibly convenient tool for quick messages, video calls, and meetings. Since nonverbal communication is very important, it’s recommended that you try to have video calls at least once a week with your team.
Let your employees know what you expect of them on a daily basis. This will most likely be a new experience for all of them, so you’ll want to map out what is expected. In addition to that, your company policies and procedures may change as well. What happens when someone needs to request time off? Whom should an employee report to if a computer issue arises? Run through certain scenarios in your head to make sure that all situations are covered.
Make sure that employees have everything they need to get their jobs done. Employees probably aren’t going to take their entire desks and computer setups with them, so you’ll want to provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Do they need special computer programs to get their jobs done? If so, make sure that the software is purchased for their use. If expected to make phone calls, provide them with headsets so they can speak with employees and customers easily. There are many computer-based phone applications that businesses use so employees can call customers without using their personal devices. Basically, you’ll want to give your workforce everything they would normally have in the office so they can continue working normally.
Track Productivity and Time
One of the most important things is to make sure that managers can track time. This doesn’t mean that managers should monitor employees’ every move, but they should be able to check on productivity. This is where an online time tracking system would come in handy. Employees can indicate how long they’ve worked on projects, which is helpful to see where time and money is spent. Online time tracking systems are also great for tracking attendance and time off. Even though you’re not in the office, it’s still important to know who’s in and who’s out, so you don’t try to contact someone that’s not working.
The coronavirus outbreak is something that none of us expected, but it’s something that affects all of us. It has created chaos within our community and the economy. The best thing to do is prepare yourself as much as possible, including preparing your business for a metamorphosis into the online realm. In order to protect your business, keep employees healthy by letting them stay home when they’re sick and prepare yourself for a possible work-from-home workforce.