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How your business should prepare for the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) right now

(BUSINESS NEWS) As COVID-19 continues to spread, how can you prepare your company for potential disaster? It’s pretty simple and cheap too.

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covid-19 bear

Okay, the Coronavirus (dubbed COVID-19) has gotten a lot of people spooked, and that makes sense. After all, although the World Health Organization (WHO) hasn’t dubbed it a pandemic, COVID-19 is close to fitting the definition of pandemic as outlined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s scary, I know. But before we dive into the rest of the article, it’s worth knowing that the CDC also asserts that most average Americans actually have a low risk of catching the virus (as of February 28, 2020, that is).

Still, whether you’re at a high risk or not, it’s worth being prepared just in case things do go south.

In the case of COVID-19 spreading further, the CDC says: “Widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time.” In other words, it would really start cutting back on grouping people together in things like schools, conferences and work – which can leave a lot of questions about the future of your income.

Even if this worst case scenario never comes, having a company plan can help ease anxieties that are sure to accompany news of COVID-19. So, how do you prepare?

Stay Up to Date

Look, there’s a lot of misinformation and panic out there. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of extremes on either end – both with people asserting that nothing is going wrong as well as the kinds of people who are already prepping their apocalypse bunker. Your business needs to be smarter about it.

Check on trustworthy sources like the CDC and WHO and shut down any spread of misinformation you see around the office.

Keeping up to date will also let you know ways to best prepare your office for the spreading virus. Research of COVID-19 is ongoing and we’re still waiting on skilled professionals to figure out exactly how it spreads and what risks the virus poses. Be prepared to make changes as needed.

That said, there’s one caveat: don’t go crazy trying to keep up to date. If you find yourself refreshing Google every couple minutes in the hopes there will be a new update, you might need to take a step back, get some fresh air and try to stop obsessing over the virus.

Consider Conference Plans

Traveling can increase the risk of employees catching the virus, especially in areas where outbreaks have already occurred, so it’s worth using tools like this COVID-19 tracker to keep an eye on future conference destinations. I’m not saying to cancel all your conference plans, but stay vigilant, y’all!

Rework Remote Work

If the time does come that your employees can’t meet in the office anymore, you’ll want a plan for what to do then – and it’s worth sharing this plan to your current employees. After all, if you’ll have to let people go, it would suck to be broadsided with that news in the middle of an outbreak.

That said, there’s always remote work available. And in the case of a quarantine situation, it might make a good solution. It’s one that’s happening in China already – the workforce is already utilizing digital tools to adapt to the virus. If you’re going that route, just make sure you prepare your employees for this situation too. Remote work brings its own challenges, like potential isolation, so it’s worth getting people ready early.

Plus, having a concrete plan can help reduce current anxieties about the virus.

Small Health Initiatives

Sure, we might not know exactly how COVID-19 spreads, but we can still promote good health practices in the meantime. Make sure your office is stocked up on hand soap, for instance. Encourage employees to stay home if they’re sick and, to incentivize this, consider being more lenient on sick day caps or offer the chance to work remotely instead to minimize the risk of something spreading through the office.

Not only can these and other small pushes for a healthier environment actually keep your company from getting sick, it also provides people with something to do. Powerlessness can increase anxieties about COVID-19; a proactive approach can help ease the fears.

These are just a few potential ideas for making an emergency plan for your company – if you’re still worried, I’d recommend taking a look at what other companies are doing. Even if you’re in a low risk area, there are still steps to be taken to reduce anxiety surrounding the virus.

And remember, before you panic, look to credible sources. Your fears might not be as pressing as you think.

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

Business News

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but it seems more people are asked about their personal life. How do you escape this problem?

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

Walmart delays the launch of its Amazon Prime competing service

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart+ is being delayed once again, but the service has yet to be cancelled. Will it be another flop?

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Walmart+ Amazon

Walmart+, the supposed Amazon Prime alternative of the century, has been delayed from launching until further notice. This marks the second delay of the year.

Vox reports that the Amazon Prime competitor was initially supposed to launch in the first quarter of 2020, but Walmart pushed the release back to July due to Coronavirus concerns. Now, Walmart+ doesn’t have a definitive launch date–indecision that’s easy to chalk up to both the ongoing pandemic and trepidation regarding profitability in an Amazon-dominated world.

Amazon Prime, a service which runs customers $119 per year, has well over 100 million members in the United States; that works out to at least one member in a little over 80 percent of households here. Between its ubiquitous nature and the fact that Amazon Prime members are more inclined to use Amazon frequently than non-Prime members, it isn’t hard to see why a premium Walmart subscription seems a little redundant.

But Walmart doesn’t see it that way. “Walmart executives have hoped the program would strike a balance of being valuable enough that customers will pay for it, while boasting different enough perks from Amazon Prime so that there aren’t perk-by-perk comparisons,” Vox posits. At $98 per year, Walmart+ would include things like same-day delivery, gas discounts, line-skipping, a dedicated credit card, and potentially even a video streaming service.

While there are some clear parallels between Amazon Prime and Walmart+, one can attribute those to convenience rather than imitation. People seem to enjoy having extra streaming options as a perk of Prime, so for Walmart+ to include something similar wouldn’t exactly be inappropriate.

The largest obstacle to Walmart+’s success in a post-Coronavirus world probably won’t have much to do with brand loyalty, but the fact remains that Amazon’s value is so far above and beyond Walmart’s that people who regularly use Amazon Prime aren’t likely to make the switch–and, as mentioned previously, the sheer number of people who have a Prime membership is high enough to be concerning to Walmart executives.

However, for customers who frequently shop at Walmart or live in relatively rural areas, Walmart+ doesn’t seem like a bad gig. It isn’t Amazon Prime, to be sure–but that’s the point.

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Business News

What COVID-19 measures do workplaces have to take to reopen?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Employers can’t usually do medical screenings – but it’s a little different during a pandemic.

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COVID-19 temp gun

Employers bringing personnel back to work are faced with the challenge of protecting their workforce from COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidelines on how to do so safely and legally.

Employee health and examinations are usually a matter of personal privacy by design through the American’s with Disabilities Act. However, after the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic in March, the U.S. EEOC revised its guidance to allow employers to screen for possible infections in order to protect employees.

Employers are now allowed to conduct temperature screenings and check for symptoms of the coronavirus. They can also exclude from the workplace those they suspect of having symptoms. The recommendations from the CDC also include mandatory masks, distant desks, and closing common areas. As the pandemic and US response evolves, it is important for employers to continue to monitor any changes in guidance from these agencies.

Employers are encouraged to have consistent thresholds for symptoms and temperature requirements and communicate those with transparency. Though guidance suggests that COVID-19 screenings at work are allowed by law, employers should be mindful of the way they are conducted and the impact it may have on employer-employee relations.

Stanford Health Care is taking a bold approach by performing COVID-19 testing on each of its 14,000 employees that have any patient contact. They implemented temperature scanning stations at each entrance, operated by nurses and clinicians. The President and CEO of Sanford Health Care said, “For our patients to trust the clinical procedures and trials, it was important for them to know that we were safe.”

Technology is adapting to meet the needs of employers and identify symptoms of COVID-19. Contactless thermometers that can check the temperature of up to 1,500 people per hour using thermal imaging technology are now on the market; they show an error margin of less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. COVID-19 screening is being integrated into some company time-clocks used by employees at the start and end of each shift. The clocks are being equipped with a way to record employee temperatures and answers to a health questionnaire. Apple and Google even collaborated to bring contact tracing to smart phones which could help contain potential outbreaks.

Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are the three most common symptoms of COVID-19. Transmission is still possible from a person who is asymptomatic, but taking the precautions to identify these symptoms can help minimize workplace spread. This guidance may change in the future as the pandemic evolves, but for now, temperature checks are a part of back to work for many.

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