It all feels rather surreal, doesn't it?
Businesses great and small are feeling a financial crunch as the world inches closer and closer to an economic crash.
This is the reality created by the coronavirus, known also as COVID-19. As an employer, it falls to you to ensure your staff is kept safe during this trying time. Here are a few ways you can do so.
1. Remote Work is a Must
By this point, many cities are ordering any businesses that are not essential to close their doors. Even if yours isn't one of them, it's neither fair nor reasonable to expect employees to commute to work each and every day. If you have not done so already, you need to take the necessary steps to allow your employees to work from home.
You must give them secure access to any corporate resources they require, invest in a collaboration tool such as Slack and a videoconferencing solution such as Zoom, and find some way to manage your everyone's projects and responsibilities with everyone scattered to the winds.
A big part of this lies in understanding that, divested of a traditional office environment, everyone has a slightly different approach to work.
Expecting everyone to adhere to a standard 9 to 5 is no longer reasonable. While there needs to be some overlap in order to facilitate effective meetings, your management and leadership must stop focusing so much on when something gets done. As long as people are doing their job, they must be allowed to work how and when they choose.
The SmartBiz Small Business Blog has additional information about effectively using remote operations:
- 6 Tips on How To Adjust Your Company for Remote Work
- 5 Tips to Maximize Your Productivity While Working Remotely
2. You Need to Educate Your Staff
There's a lot of misinformation floating around about COVID-19 driven by both greed and ignorance. As an employer, you need to do your part to cut through the falsehoods and educate your staff. In particular, focus on the following:
- How to prevent the virus's spread. Keep a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others, regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time, and avoid touching your face.
- The purpose of masks and gloves. These do not prevent the spread of COVID-19, and their use will accomplish little for you.
- Vaccines. There is currently no publicly available vaccine or cure for coronavirus, although there are several potentials undergoing clinical testing. Anyone who tries to claim differently is lying.
- The danger. COVID-19 is not, as some would have you believe, simply a minor flu. It is a highly infectious disease that is potentially deadly to anyone with a weakened respiratory or immune system. Its spread could easily overwhelm healthcare systems around the globe.
Our article has tips from official sources to help you maintain a safe and effective workforce: How to Prepare Your Small Business to Start Up Again After the Shutdown has Lifted.
3. Pay Attention to Isolation
Coronavirus isn't just harmful from a physical and economic standpoint. The isolation that comes with mandatory quarantine can be just as harmful to one's mental well-being, if not more so. For that reason, if you have employees who are self-isolating or sheltering in place during the pandemic, it's imperative that you establish a framework for keeping in regular contact with them.
Regular videoconferences and check-ins are a good start, but you might also consider finding virtual activities that you and your employees can participate in together. These might include digital concerts, movie nights, or even a video game you all have in common. Providing everyone with the opportunity to have regular human contact, even if it's through a computer screen, can go a long way towards staving off loneliness.
4. Provide Counseling to Those Who Need It
Isolation isn't the only thing that wears on the psyche in this pandemic. Most of your employees likely have friends and loved ones who are immunocompromised or otherwise severely at-risk from the virus. They know people whose homes and careers are at risk as a result of financial instability.
Even in small doses, that level of stress can wreak havoc on one's mental health. And most people aren't experiencing it in small doses. They're afraid, they're uncertain, and they're constantly worried about what might come next.
I would strongly recommend reaching out to some form of virtual counseling service and providing that service to any of your staff who need it, free of charge.
5. Keep a Close Eye on the Global Stage
The situation surrounding coronavirus is constantly changing, and you must be aware of these changes in order to protect your workforce. Monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites for updates, and regularly check sources like Google News for new information. The faster you know about new developments in the fight against COVID-19, the faster you can react to them.
A New World is Coming
It's difficult to say how things will look when the dust settles and coronavirus fades away. All anyone knows for certain is that the world will have changed. Keep your workforce safe and secure, and your business can change with it.