Prevention, Control and Compassion in the Workplace.
On the 11th of March 2020, the World Health Organisation characterised the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. This has created an air of caution around the world, and not surprisingly, workplaces form one of the key environments in which precautions are being put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Experts estimate that anywhere from 20% to 60% of the world’s adult population could contract the virus. In fact, as this article is being written, the Government of Victoria has declared a State of Emergency with the aim to prevent and control the virus.
If you are a business owner or organisation who is responsible for the impact on the day-to-day lives of staff and colleagues (in these strange times, we all have some) – the question arises as to what your role is in preventing the spread of this virus and of ensuring business continuity.
As a compliance business, we aim to educate and inform businesses on guidelines not only from a regulatory perspective, but of one that keeps your workplace culture healthy and ensures your brand integrity. These uncertain times call for a new type of compliance, one that requires compassionate leadership, the embracing of technology and the implementation of strict prevention and control measures in your work environment. Measures which can mean the difference between business growth and failure.
Before we consider the ways in which we can prevent and control COVID-19 in the workplace, we must consider exactly how it spreads. According to the World Health Organisation, when someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales, they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces or objects, and then the infection can be spread through touching of the eyes, nose or mouth. If someone is standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19, they can catch it by breathing droplets coughed out or exhaled by the infected person. In other words, it spreads in a similar fashion to the flu.
The following are 6 ways in which you can support your colleagues to help to prevent and control the spread of this virus:
1. Hygiene and Cleanliness. Yes, wash your hands.
Encourage and enforce strict personal and workplace hygiene. Remind colleagues to wash their hands (for 20 seconds, as a guideline) and have high grade hand-sanitiser and handwash available for use in all shared spaces. Remind colleagues to cough and sneeze into their elbow and to limit touching of their face. Make sure surfaces are wiped down regularly.
2. Place a hold on all work-related travel. Especially air-travel.
Online meetings are having a moment. Employers must ensure that they are not placing their staff at risk by insisting on client meetings that especially require air travel. In fact, the Australian Government has imposed a self-isolation for 14 days on anyone who has recently returned from overseas, placing airports and air travel as a no-go zone. Use meeting technology such as Skype or Zoom for client appointments or check-ins. Let clients know of the small change, and remember the world is going through this transition right now – they will understand. Face-to-face online is the way to go.
3. Work from home and remote work functionality is the key.
If you are a business that can work online, encourage and provide your team the functionality to do this. This will ensure business continuity and allow for growth whilst we all navigate this transition into a new work world. If you are worried about productivity, a Stanford study has found that there is a 13% increase in productivity with those that work remotely. Implement Remote Work procedures and protocols and check in with staff to ensure that they are able to work from home adequately and have the tools that they need to do so. To learn more about how to successfully do this, check out our course here.
4. If you’re not well, please stay at home.
This is a simple one, and very important. If you are not feeling well and are displaying any flu-like or cold symptoms, please stay home. If you are a Manager, please encourage employees to stay at home if they are not feeling well. Those infected with the virus must self-isolate for 14 days.
5. Keep spirits high. Let’s take care of each other.
The feeling of uncertainty, panic and fear can have a severe impact on the mental health of your workforce. Now is the time for compassion, reassurance and teamwork. Support your colleagues, and check-in regularly. Isolation can be very tough, however through transparency, clear communication and community, this time can be less of a struggle. Indeed, this is a situation that can bring out great leadership, creativity and team unity.
6. Social Distancing and #flattenthecurve.
The concept has come about to emphasise the importance of social distancing as we face COVID-19 as a global community. Flattening the Curve (see graph below) refers to the concept of minimising pressure on the health system, by delaying the spread of the virus from person to person. And we do this through social distancing. The objective of which is to reduce the probabilities of contact between persons carrying an infection, and others who are not infected. Limit social gatherings, face-time family and friends and keep socialising to a minimum so that we can slow down the spread of COVID-19.
Remember, we are all in this together and now is the time to employ community thinking in the workforce.
“Our choices affect everyone around us, there is no such thing as individual risk or individual wellness. This is the ultimate reminder that we are inextricably connected to each other. Turning away from collective action right now – as tempting as it is – will only generate more pain” (Author, Brene Brown).