COVID-19 and the workplace
With Malaika T. Edwards
It is not business as usual.
The coronavirus has impacted our daily lives and from all indications will continue to have an impact for some time. We have all been given certain guidelines to curtail the spread of the disease, and ideally persons will follow these guidelines accordingly. While the virus has impacted our personal lives, the workplace has also been impacted and business owners must respond to protect their employees and the business. Here are a few things that you can do:
- Communicate with your team. While preparing to respond to the coronavirus, discuss your plans with your team members and advise them about the plans you have for the business. If possible, involve them in the planning process to identify a suitable course of action.
- Accommodate Emergency (Pandemic) Leave. Although employees are entitled to a fixed number of days per year for sick leave, COVID-19 brings with it exceptions. Employees may need to be quarantined if it is suspected that they may have the virus. As business owners you are strongly encouraged to accommodate this time away from the office… without deducting these days from your employees’ regular sick leave allotment.
- Remote Work. At this stage, remote work is being strongly advised and you should encourage your employees to work from home. Depending on the nature of your business, you may also need to utilize a shift-based system if your business can accommodate this.
- Disinfect. Disinfect. Disinfect. It is important that you ramp-up your cleaning efforts at your business place. Clean surface areas, credit card pin pads, doorknobs, workstations, bathrooms etc. more frequently than you normally would. While it is expected that employees may have hand sanitizers for their own use, the business place should also have hand- sanitizing dispensers in work areas (ideally touchless ones) for employees and customers.
- Mental health support. Evidently, the coronavirus has brought with it a significant amount of panic and fear for many persons, and some of your employees may be experiencing increased levels of stress. Considering this, business owners should explore options for online counseling services for employees who may need help coping during this time.
If your organisation does not have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place- I encourage you to use this time to develop one. In developing the BCP, ensure that you make provisions for remote work going forward, so that your business is not unduly affected if employees cannot perform their functions at the work site. Additionally, if you do not have Health and Wellness Policies or an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)- this is an ideal time to have these developed and implemented. If you need help in any of these areas, seek advice from a HR practitioner with the relevant expertise.
Malaika T. Edwards, PhD provides HR advisory services to business and individual clients. She is also an academic in the Higher Education landscape. You can contact her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/malaika-edwards or by email at email@example.com.