The novel coronavirus has made headlines for weeks and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. With infected Americans returning home from abroad, experts say it’s not a matter of if the virus spreads across the country but when and how severe the effects will be. The CDC confirmed the first case of the illness in the United States with no known origin—the individual hadn’t recently traveled to China or had close contact with anyone suffering from the illness. While the CDC hasn’t confirmed this is an instance of community spread, it’s a harbinger of illnesses to come.
What Businesses Can Do to Prepare
The CDC has three recommendations for what businesses can do now to lessen the spread of the illness outside of pharmaceutical means. These include:
- Urging employees to stay home when ill
- Canceling large gatherings of people such as conferences or training seminars
- Vigilantly cleaning surface in the office
In addition to encouraging employees to stay home when sick, businesses should also consider suspending the requirement to produce a doctor’s note for employees suffering from respiratory illnesses. Doctors’ offices will likely be operating at a hectic pace and doctor’s notes aren’t likely on their priority list. Employees should refrain from returning to work until their temperature has remained below 100.4F for a minimum of 24 hours without the assistance of medication.
As for the workplace, performing routine cleaning of all touchable surfaces is critical. As it’s still cold and flu season, it’s likely employees are already taking measures to protect themselves from airborne and contact illnesses. However, businesses should ensure surface cleanings include doorknobs, keyboards, and any other surface that employees touch that can be wiped down.
Posting signs about proper sneezing and coughing protocol can help prevent the spread of germs as well. In addition, many adults fail to wash their hands properly so businesses should also consider posting notices with guidelines near all sinks.
What to Do in the Event of Closures
Employees may have no choice but to stay home in the event of daycare or school closures. Businesses may opt to temporarily close as well if a certain percentage of the staff falls ill. However, not all businesses can withstand a prolonged shutdown. Businesses should consider updating policies regarding working from home as well as using teleconference tools.
There’s no way to predict where the coronavirus will spread or how it will affect businesses. Now is the time for companies to look at their sick leave policies and ensure employees understand all procedures regarding calling out, working from home if applicable, and returning to work.
Keeping track of office-wide illnesses can spiral out of control if businesses don’t have a solid absence reporting program in place. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about absence management technology to track paid leave, identify absenteeism, and more.