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Coronavirus: 3 Ways Employers Can Plan, Prepare, and Respond

Blog Post

Here are 3 ways employers can respond to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak to help their employees, communities, and businesses stay healthy.

The world’s eyes are wide and focused on the rising number of patients with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Stores are working hard to keep up with demand for basic supplies and food, while consumers are hurriedly preparing in case of the event of an ill family member. Local and state governments are declaring states of emergency and disaster proclamations, and employers are facing the very real possibility of having to close their doors temporarily.

An Ounce of Prevention

Organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are emphasizing good personal health habits most people are familiar with, but fear can take over when a new (and very serious) threat is upon us. Self-isolating at home and generally staying away from large gatherings and public places are a given, but the question remains… what about work?

Despite OSHA reporting that “most U.S. workers remain at low risk of exposure” (get their guidance on control and prevention here), the CDC recently warned that business could be seriously impacted and should be prepared for major disruptions. During a news conference on February 26, Director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) Nancy Messonnier, MD, advised, “[N]ow is the time for businesses, hospitals, community schools, and everyday people to begin preparing as well.”

So what can employers do to proactively support containing the virus and to be prepared in the case of a declared pandemic? In her news conference, Dr. Messonnier detailed 3 categories of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that are our best chance at beating this year’s big threat:

  • personal
  • community
  • environmental

Here are the ways your business can equip and enforce these measures (Paylocity clients: Be sure you’re logged in before you click the links to PEAK Knowledge Base articles below!).

1. Empower Employees to Make It Personal

Personal NPIs include a lot of those things we already know we should do, like proper hand washing (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) and staying home when we’re feeling sick. Employers can encourage their employees to follow through on these recommendations for individuals in a few ways.

For example, it’s no new phenomenon that employees often still go to work while under the weather. In fact, in a 2019 survey by Robert Half, 9 out of 10 employees admit to going to work sick! But a remarkable 33% said they “always” go to the office with cold or flu symptoms.

The top reasons given why they’re going into the office despite their better judgment were workload and not wanting to use sick time (that is, if they even have the luxury paid sick time). Whether it was because they were rationing time off or they were worried about the impression of a poor work ethic, workers are clearly afraid to do what they know is the best thing, which is to stay home.

In addition to offering the supplies in the office to disinfect themselves and their workstations, employers can review policies and communicate frequently and openly to reinforce good health habits. Here are a few ways employers can encourage individuals to take those personal protective measures:

Balance Home and Work from Anywhere

  • Give employees mobile access to the latest company and personal information to keep them aware, informed, and connected, for example, on mandates to work from home or halt travel. (Clients: Help employees download the Paylocity Mobile App in Article ID: PCTY-54144 or send employees directly to the Apple App Store and Google Play to download.)
  • Put the power of information in employees’ hands with self-service access to benefits information, direct deposit information, current and historical pay stubs, schedules, and more while also alleviating HR teams’ workloads. (Clients: Learn how to Configure the Self Service Portal in Article ID: PCTY-60670.)
  • Help employees manage unexpected expenses, like additional childcare when schools are closed or extra food and supplies, with access to a portion of earned wages ahead of regular paydays. (Clients: Learn about On Demand Payment in Article ID: PCTY-75710.)

Connect from Anywhere

  • Give managers and their teams the ability to share and record feedback frequently and easily without requiring unnecessary face-to-face time. (Clients: Learn how to Create a Journal entry in Article ID: PCTY-51724.)
  • Help managers view and manage schedules easily without adding administrative burden to HR. (Clients: Learn how to Manage Employee Schedules in Article ID: PCTY-62446.)
  • Give managers and teams access to the information and connection they need even when away from their desk with a mobile-friendly solution. (Clients: Learn about our Mobile App in Article ID: PCTY-63414.)

2. Take the Corporate Community Virtual

Community NPIs are efforts designed to help separate people who are sick, like school and business closures. But businesses need a plan (a tested one, at that) and the infrastructure in place to be able to make that move quickly and smoothly for staff as well as their bottom line.

The next few months, even without the government calling for a shutdown of operations, will be a real test of how well companies can manage serious disruptions while maintaining operations as normal as possible. Employers should consider how to support employees who need flexibility due to school and daycare closures, for example, or to care for sick family members.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Nearly half of 158 U.S. businesses surveyed by Willis Towers Watson in mid-February said they were implementing or expanding remote-work programs due to the epidemic.” Our CEO Steve Beauchamp told HR Dive, “To prepare for a period of mandated remote work, employers need to develop and test work-from-home policies before they're necessary.”

Translation: There’s no time to waste if your company doesn’t have a business continuity plan (BCP), communication plan, emergency preparedness plan, and related policies in place for employees to work remotely, especially those employees whose roles are critical to maintaining minimum operations and tech support, who enables any of those employees to be up and running. Even the simple step of identifying those roles is a good start.

Unfortunately, businesses in the service industries, like restaurants and child care, don’t have the luxury to offer work-from-home options, but there are plenty of ways employers can prepare now to lighten the impact on their staff as this outbreak starts affecting daily operations:

Prioritize Communication and Supporting Employees

  • Keep employees informed and aware with a communication plan and a central place to access the most current, accurate updates. (Clients: Learn how to Post an Announcement on Community in Article ID: PCTY-67156.)
  • Help employees connect and work from anywhere with mobile-friendly applications. (Clients: Learn about the Paylocity Mobile App in Article ID: PCTY-63414.)
  • Train and empower supervisors to confidently and effectively support and manage remote employees with digital solutions for performance management. (Clients: Learn about Performance Management in Article ID: PCTY-51724.)
  • Take proactive steps to minimize the impact of any lost income. (Clients: Learn about On Demand Payment in Article ID: PCTY-75710.)

Plan Ahead for High Demand

  • Give employees paperless access to pay through direct deposit, and enable them to view and update personal information themselves. (Clients: Learn about the Self Service Portal and access the Adoption Kit in Article ID: PCTY-71174.)
  • Accommodate extra workload with supplemental resources. (Clients: Learn how HR Edge supports your HR team with consultation services, customized handbooks and training, and best practices in Article ID: PCTY-60296.)

3. Disinfect, Disinfect, Disinfect

Environmental NPIs are the last line of defense, which include attentively cleaning surfaces and proactively offering materials that help employees keep their stations and other surfaces clean. In addition to taking actions at a facilities level by freeing up resources (including budget) available, companies can offer best practices and supplies to employees to encourage them to keeping community spaces clean and disinfected.

Centralized, transparent communication is key to enforcing and maintaining environment NPIs, so in additional to physical notices around the office, employers should consider how they can disseminate the measures they are taking to keep employees healthy.

Equip Employees to Minimize Contamination

  • Minimize the use of communal areas like time clocks by giving employees the ability to punch in and out on their mobile devices. (Clients: Learn how to help employees punch on the Mobile App in Article ID: PCTY-63351, and guide supervisors on how to use the Punch Map to verify employee punches in Article ID: PCTY-56377.)
  • Make expense management easy and put those dollars back into employees’ pockets quickly with a streamlined, mobile-friendly, digital process that minimizes the hassle, time, and risk of paper document management. (Clients: Learn about Expense Management in Article ID: PCTY-4112.)
  • Keep employees informed and aware with a communication plan and a central place to access the most current, accurate updates. (Clients: Learn how to Post an Announcement on Community in Article ID: PCTY-67156.)
  • Keep the lines of communication open and multi-directional to keep your finger on the pulse of how your employees are feeling about their health and safety at work. Include steps to gain employee feedback on the process and perception of your efforts. (Clients: Learn about Surveys in Article ID: PCTY-60651.)

It’s a Team Effort

Whether this coronavirus outbreak turns into an official pandemic or not, Priority One for business is to prepare now. And examples should be set from the top, at a leadership and policy level. "A change in leadership comes from the top; senior leaders need to say it's OK to stay home when sick, and then demonstrate it," says Terri L. Rhodes, CEO of the San Diego-based Disability Management Employer Coalition.

Paylocity clients have us in their corner, too. To stay up-to-date on things we’re doing to help you prepare, be sure you’re subscribed to Elevate Newsletter (administrators, can contact your account manager), register for our next HR Leadership webinar “Managing Through and Preparing Your Organization for Emergencies, Disasters, and Communicable Diseases” (Thursday, March 26, at noon), and check out our recent PCTY Talks podcast on "What You Should Know About Coronavirus: Preparing Your Organization."


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