ILLUSTRATION BY STEPHANIE REDDING / WBJ; GETTY IMAGES
This article was originally published by Silicon Valley Business Journal. Click here to view the original article.
What should you do if one of your employees has COVID-19? And how would you even find that out in the first place? We sought the answers to these questions — top of mind for any employer today — from legal, human resources and crisis communications experts, along with the latest health authority guidance, to learn the best practices should a person on your payroll test positive for the novel coronavirus.
What You Should Do...
First and foremost, this is a global health emergency, and everyone’s safety must be the highest concern, including for employers. The CDC has posted its interim guidelines online, routinely updating them. The agency recommends employers take these steps if they find that an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
By The Numbers
National law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP surveyed more than 550 clients about their COVID-19 response as of March 16. Here’s what the respondents said:
85% were encouraging employees to work from home
70% still required doctor’s notes to return to work, despite CDC guidelines
65% were allowing employees to work from home who couldn’t before
- 40% were providing regular salary continuation for quarantined employee
- 28% were providing unpaid leave or less than regular wages for quarantined employees
- 14% were providing additional benefits to the quarantined
- 30% allowed employees to wear N-95 respirators to work
- 30% did not
- 30% had not considered this at all
The Communication Plan
An employer’s response must adhere to more than the law, of course. Overcommunication is key in a crisis situation. And the topmost message must be that the health and safety of staff, partners and clients are of highest concern, said Elizabeth Cholis, managing director at FTI Consulting’s crisis communications practice in D.C. Alicia Hasell, managing partner at executive search and leadership consulting firm Boyden in Houston, agrees. “Make sure that everyone is getting the same message, that we as the employer have their best interest at heart,” she said. Here’s what else they suggest.
Approach everything factually in your messages to employees. Don’t insert your opinions on the state of health care. Highlight the safety precautions you’re taking for sick employees and for the rest of the team.
Review business continuity plans. Review all emergency or succession plans for the business, making sure everyone in the leadership team knows his or her roles and actions, should this persist well into the future.
Be flexible. “Realize that everyone’s typical routine has been thrown into the fan. This isn’t business as usual,” Hasell said. That also means knowing what work can realistically be done from home.
Keep training going. Don’t give up on professional development for your staff during this time if you can help it. Just look for online offerings. Your staffers will notice that you’re still investing in them.
Show compassion to those who fall ill. “It’s indiscriminate. Have sympathy. Attribution and blame should not be part of the equation,” said Hasell, speaking from her experience living through Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
Uh-Oh, Not Feeling Well?
If you start to come down with typical COVID-19 symptoms — a fever and dry cough or shortness of breath — then firstly, don’t panic. Most who have the virus are able to recover at home. Take these next steps, as per CDC guidelines.
Call your doctor and tell them. Your doctor may have a test available, or if there is still a shortage of tests in your area, they may tell you to just stay home, monitor your symptoms and call them or a hospital if you have trouble breathing.
Stay at home. That means avoiding all travel, all public transportation or ridesharing, and completely self-isolating for 14 days.
Call before going to a hospital or even your own doctor’s office. If your situation worsens and you need medical care, call ahead to make sure you can be seen and treated at that location.
Stay away from others, including your own family. As much as possible, avoid contact with all people, even those living with you. If you can stay in a separate room and even use a different bathroom, that is best.
Wear a face mask if you must be around others, including with a medical practitioner or with a caregiver. Your caregiver should wear the mask if you can’t. Improvise with a scarf or bandana if you don’t have a mask on hand.
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, discard that tissue into a lined trash can, and wash your hands right after.
Wash your hands as often as possible, for at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching your face.
Don’t share personal items or anything you touch in your household.
Clean frequently, especially high-touch surfaces, with disinfectant.
When Can You Go Back To work?
If you can be tested: Your doctor will likely test you twice to see if you’re still contagious. You’re good if you no longer have a fever without the use of any drugs, your other symptoms have improved, and you’ve received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart.
If you can’t be tested: Then the CDC says to wait until your fever abates for 72 hours without the use of drugs, your other symptoms improve and seven days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
For more guidance, talk to your physician and local health departments.
The CDC also regularly updates COVID-19 information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/