Coronavirus or Covid19 is pretty serious. Remembering back to Avian Flu and Swine Flu it seemed there was always an outbreak overseas that resulted in a few cases here. Coronavirus has reached the stage (as of time of writing) that employers and employees should be heeding the right advice in order to avoid spreading the outbreak. There’s a lot of contradictory information out there and we are recruiters and certainly not health professionals but this is what we’ve been reading.
Wash your hands
This seems to be the most consistent advice from health officials and it’s time we replaced the cursory splash of water with a good thorough wash. Check out this video from the NHS How to Wash Your Hands. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, using ample soap and ensuring every bit of your hands have been cleaned. When to wash your hands is also important. Obviously after going to the loo but also after blowing your nose or coughing. We’re being recommended to get into the habit of regularly washing our hands even if no contact has been made with unpleasant substances. As an employer is it sensible to set a timer to ensure staff are washing their hands every hour? Create a buzz about reminding people and make sure everyone is informed about the importance. Hand sanitiser is also good and should be made available to staff.
A clean environment
Companies who have had confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus amongst their staff are deep cleaning their offices before returning to work and certainly cleaning firms are in unprecedented demand. Germs can stick to surfaces and it’s really important to ensure extra care is taken when cleaning. If you don’t have a cleaning company you should be encouraging every member of staff to tidy and sanitise their desks regularly. Communal surfaces i.e. balustrades, kitchen tops, door handles should be cleaned regularly and thoroughly. A cleaning rota may need to be put in place to ensure the jobs get done. It’s best to be cautious in these situations as beyond caring for staff members and their contacts, you don’t want to be blamed for poor hygiene leading to the spread. Contrary to all the guidance on creating a sustainable office we’re being encouraged to use disposable cloths and cleaning equipment where possible. Hopefully it’s only a temporary measure but it’s probably worth doing.
To handshake or not to handshake
Neither the NHS or government health advisors have mentioned shaking hands although it was reported in the tabloid press that they had. In the States people seem to be adopting ‘no-shake’ policies and some GPs have recommended non-essential contact with others. If you offer your hand and someone declines to shake that is their prerogative. There is no point in being offended and for whatever reason some of us are more cautious than others. It’s important to accept and respect the decisions of others as you may not know of their underlying health conditions, caring responsibilities of other experiences that contribute to their caution. It’s probably sensible to avoid hugs and kisses at large gatherings but as yet, a simple ‘consensual’ handshake is still okay. Let’s not fall out over a virus!
Creating transparency & trust
Possibly the worst situation is to allow or encourage staff to carry on coming into work if they have any suspicions whatsoever regarding their own health. Setting clear guidelines as to what is expected is crucial in containment. However vital the presentation, however crucial the meeting it is less important than spreading disease. Staff need to know that if they display any symptoms of coronavirus they should call the coronavirus service on 111 and, if instructed, self-isolate. There are always people who insist on coming to work with all sorts of cold and flu. This is the opportunity to tell them it needs to stop! Staff really shouldn’t feel pressured to attend if they are ill and especially if there is a chance they have a highly infectious illness.
If your staff can work from home, encourage it. Packed commuter trains, busy offices, afterwork pub sessions may well be crucial carriers in the next months – we don’t know. If you have been meaning to put in place a remote working / flexible working policy take the opportunity to get it through whilst it’s at the forefront of people’s minds. If, as is being discussed, schools may be closing it’s important that parents have flexibility to manage unexpected childcare too.
Finally, avoid hearsay! We’ve heard loads of rumours which have prompted this post. The NHS are providing guidelines and updates all the time and panic buying and snake oil remedies are not going to help. Stay healthy everyone 🙂