This article was updated on April 9, 2020
There are now hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in the U.S. and more than ten thousand deaths; stay-at-home and work-from-home policies are nearly universal, and social distancing and wearing masks are becoming our new normal. There has been a lot of rapid change. Here are a few things that employers and employees can focus on during this stage of the pandemic.
What employers can do.
Health experts recommend that employers follow a few guidelines to help curb the spread of the disease and assist employees and family members who may be affected by it.
- Support non-essential employees staying home. This is the number one thing employers can do to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Because coronavirus can be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals, it is recommended that people avoid the unnecessary risk of physical proximity.
- Work remotely, think creatively. Take advantage of co-working platforms like Slack and Zoom that foster collaboration, face-to-face discussion, and an escape from social distancing.
- Practice good workplace hygiene. In essential work settings, provide access to soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace and continue to perform “routine environmental cleaning” such as disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, like workstations, counter tops and doorknobs. Emphasize recent recommendations regarding wearing masks.
- Remind employees of available mental health services. It’s natural for employees to experience anxiety about the outbreak of coronavirus, so make sure they know about any mental health programs that might be available through a well-being program or Employee Assistance Program.
- Encourage employees to use telemedicine. Health care providers across the United States have transitioned to telemedicine services, which should generally be covered by your insurance plan.
What employees can do.
In addition to physical distancing and wearing masks to avoid transmission from asymptomatic or symptomatic individuals, good hygiene and well-being practices are still key to prevention.
- Practice self-care. If you’re sleep-deprived and stressed-out you’re more likely to be susceptible to any virus, so getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and taking time out to recharge is important.
- Be vigilant about washing hands. The CDC recommends washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If handwashing is not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used.
- Wear a mask. The virus is transmitted via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Wearing a mask protects other people. It’s also important not to touch your face when wearing a mask, and to make sure to wash your hands after removing a mask.
- Know your risks. The disease seems to be most severe in older males, smokers, and those with preexisting medical conditions like heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.