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.