Adapted from coronavirus.utah.gov/business
COVID-19 Prevention in the Workplace
The highest priority of any business is to protect the health, safety, and life of employees and clients. Every decision emanates from that single objective, including guidelines employees have within their places of business, the flexibility and encouragement they are given to attend to their own health needs — as well as those of their families — and a supportive workplace environment that has considered and prepared for disruptions in services, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and supply chains.
While many, if not most, businesses may never experience an incident of coronavirus on their premises, almost all will feel the effects of the illness through disruptions in the stock market, a break in the supply chain, or legitimate concerns among employees. Businesses should also be aware of potential shortages for pharmaceutical supplies, health care supplies, and other resources that may be required for needs unrelated to coronavirus or may leave a company unprepared for subsequent emergencies. These are best addressed by advance planning, considering the resources and best practices that encourage healthy engagement and behaviors within the business environment, at the employee’s home, and support throughout the community.
Best practices encouraged by business and health care experts separate into two categories, those who are not feeling well or suspect they have the coronavirus, and those who are feeling well and need to take precautions.
Those who believe they may have been exposed to coronavirus or who are not feeling well should:
- Be actively encouraged to remain at home except to receive health care.
- Stay separate and apart from individuals and animals within the home.
- Call the doctor before visiting to describe symptoms and receive instructions.
- Wear a facemask in public and among household companions.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean hands and wash often with soap and water for 20 seconds or an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Avoid sharing household items.
- Clean all “high touch” surfaces every day.
- Have clothing and bedding washed as frequently as possible.
- Monitor symptoms and inform healthcare professionals, particularly if they worsen.
- Confirm illness and contagion have passed before returning to work or public engagement.
- CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
Those who are feeling well and have no reason to believe they have been exposed to coronavirus should proceed as they would during any cold and flu season:
- Perform hand hygiene frequently.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Try to remain in open spaces with good airflow.
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise.
- Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, and clothing items with workmates.
- Clean all “high-touch” surfaces, such as counters, desk- and tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, and tablets, every day.
- Sanitize workspaces and public transportation areas like handles and stabilizing bars in subway cars, as well as arm rests and tray tables in buses, trains, and airplanes.
- Wash clothing regularly.
- Maintain a comfortable distance in conversations and in tight working environments, such as where two or more are gathered around a computer.
- Consider replacing a handshake with a fist bump or friendly salute.
For additional information, please see Interim Guidance for Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Around the office:
- Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
- Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
- Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
- Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands web page for more information.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
For more general workplace health and safety information, view the U.S. Chamber’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Workplace Tips for Employees. You can also download an infographic about social distancing.
Corporate Policy Recommendations
The United States Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Centers For Disease Control, recommends companies:
- Ensure sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and employees are aware of these policies.
- Speak with vendors that provide contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
- Do not require a health care provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or return to work, as medical providers are extremely busy and likely unable to provide such documentation in a timely way.
- Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
For more information, view the U.S. Chamber’s Guidance for Employers to Plan and Respond to the Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Should an Emergency Remote Work Plan become necessary due to infection among employees, family members, or the community at large, Cali Williams Yost, CEO and founder of Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit recommends the following:
- Acknowledge the possibility that all or part of your workforce may need to work remotely.
- Map out jobs and tasks that could be affected.
- Audit available IT hardware and software, and close any gaps in access and adoption.
- Set up a communications protocol in advance.
- Identify ways to measure performance that could inform broader change.
Detailed information concerning these recommendations are included in “What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan?” Harvard Business Review, February 28, 2020.
Employees With Affected Family Members
Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with coronavirus should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. If an employee is confirmed to have coronavirus, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).