The Coronavirus is now growing faster outside of China than in China — including in the US. More than 90 Americans have the virus from coast-to-coast, and six have died. Health officials expect the virus to infect hundreds if not thousands of Americans and urge everyone to take precautions now. Does your business have a robust contingency plan for your employees to work from home?
Over the weekend, US Health Officials said the shortage of test kits had limited the ability to identify and contain cases and this shortage has likely contributed to the virus’ spread. Improved test kits are now more widely available. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’s Face The Nation, Sunday, that the broader availability of test kits would identity more Americans sick with the virus. He said experts believe the virus could spread to hundreds and possibly thousands of Americans.
Experts are warning that people infected with the virus may have nothing more than common cold symptoms for seven to 10 days. If they don’t stay home, they will be infecting many of those with whom they come in contact. This is why employers must tell all employees that if they have cold symptoms, stay home. In addition, many can contract the virus and never become sick, but can still infect others.
Health officials have also said that face masks don’t prevent people from catching the virus. Instead, they suggest telling employees to thoroughly wash their hands frequently, don’t touch their faces, use hand sanitizer, and sneeze or cough into their sleeves.
China has significantly slowed the spread of the virus in China with mandatory quarantines at home.
Companies need to prepare work-from-home plans this week so they can implement these plans when the virus hits their city, or worse, an employee.
Below is what your plan should include:
- Isolated home office. Ideally, ask your workers to set up a home office with a desk and ergonomically correct chair, in a room with great Wi-Fi strength, and that is isolated from distractions.
- Video conferencing. As you begin remote work, start each day with a normal face-to-face stand up or scrum meeting, using video conferencing that allows the leader to see the workers and vice versa. In addition, continue your other group meetings using video conferencing. Consider using highly rated videoconferencing technology for groups such as ZOOM Meetings, Microsoft teams, Cisco Webex, and BlueJeans Meetings.
- File sharing. Allowing accessibility to needed information, policies and procedures are critical. Make sure your team members have the data they need and know where to find it. Some of the best file sharing technology includes Egnyte Business, Microsoft OneDrive for Business, Citrix, and Dropbox Business.
- Communication norms. Advise your teams to maintain these communication norms to keep everyone up to date on goals, get needed information, learn of changing priorities, and overcome obstacles. I recommend that employees respond to communications with this priority: 1) If you get an email, answer it by lunch or the end of the day. 2) For a text, within 30 minutes of a meeting’s end. 3) With a phone call, immediately. On days without a team meeting to start, encourage team members to text or email their leader when they start and end their day, take breaks, and go or return for lunch. These small courtesies go a long way to building remote team trust. Make sure your team members have each other’s email and business phone numbers.
Not everyone will be able to work from home during the Coronavirus crisis. Employees in factories or tied to technology in Research and Development Labs will need to come into work. For these employees, practice the prevention protocols discussed above. In addition, the CDC is advising the use of disposable gloves and gowns, and eye and respiratory protection.
You can learn more at the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association. Hopefully, these precautions will prevent the need to shut down operations.
The Coronavirus is for real and will spread. Get your plans ready now!
Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and managing partner of InnovationOne. He works with companies to improve their recruiting, HR operations, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and cultures of innovation. His new book is Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at www.VictorHrConsultant.com.