Repeatedly, creatively and aggressively encourage employees and others to take the same steps they should be taking to avoid the seasonal flu. For the annual influenza, SARS, avian flu, swine flu and now the COVID-19 coronavirus, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure. The messages you should be giving employees are:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with others, especially those who are sick.
- Refrain from shaking hands with others for the time being.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Perhaps the most important message you can give to employees: stay home when you are sick.
As an employer, you should be doing the following:
- Ensure that employees have ample facilities to wash their hands, including tepid water and soap, and that third-party cleaning/custodial schedules are accelerated.
- Evaluate your remote work capacities and policies (see article on Remote Work for more information). Teleconference or use other remote work tools in lieu of meeting in person if available.
- Consider staggering employee starting and departing times, along with lunch and break periods, to minimize overcrowding in common areas such as elevators, break rooms, etc.
- Have a single point of contact for employees for all concerns that arise relating to health and safety.
- Follow updates from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding additional precautions.