8 Things Human Resources Can Do To Prevent Coronavirus
by Jim Lundy
When an infectious disease risk—whether that’s coronavirus, measles, or the flu—becomes present in the workplace, employers can be liable for anyone who becomes infected, whether they are employees or non-employees. Preventing the spread of communicable diseases is a challenging task, but thankfully there are simple practices to put into place that can greatly reduce the risk.
This blog reviews some of the key things that senior executives and HR departments need to stay on top of in order to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus or any type of communicable disease in the workplace.
1. Understand Where Your People Have Been
Starting this week, many countries have banned flights to and from China in the attempt to lower exposure risk. However, the issue remains that the virus has been spreading for most of January. This means that some employees from your firm may have been in the affected areas, have had relatives visit affected areas, or have even come into contact with the virus at international airport terminals.
The current strategy is to isolate people who have been exposed to the virus/regions where the virus was prevalent. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers can have employees stay at/work from home if they believe that employee will pose a direct threat to the workplace due to being exposed to an infectious disease like the coronavirus. However, it is imperative to remember that employers must comply with laws and protocols such as HIPPA, OSHA, and ADA, or whichever laws are applicable to your company.
2. Utilize UCC Technology
When government travel bans have taken effect, executives must get creative if they cannot conduct a business meeting in person. This is where unified communications and collaboration (UCC) technology comes in. By utilizing technologies such as video rooms and 4k video, people across countries and borders can bring a personalized experience to a remote meeting. HR departments should bring this to the attention of IT or whoever is in charge of collaboration technology to offset the detriment of travel bans to business.
3. Evaluate Unnecessary Domestic Travel
Enterprises may want to evaluate limiting domestic air travel until the extent of the coronavirus impact is known. Additionally, employees may not be willing to travel for work based on the risk. Lobbying for cutting down on unnecessary travel can protect both the workplace and keep employees safe and secure.
4. Review Basic Health and Safety Protocols
HR and safety departments should take the time to restate important health and safety protocols in the workplace. Proper hand-washing, reduced person-to-person contact, and other standard hygiene procedures are all indispensable. In-person seminars conducted by HR or safety departments, flyers in the office, or reminder emails are all good ways to communicate these health and safety reminders.
As an extra precaution for those who do travel or conduct business outside of the office, the use of masks and gloves is recommended. Human resources departments along with corporate security should evaluate procuring gloves and masks for associates who do need to travel.
5. Track Your Global Employees with Global Talent Mobility Management
One thing that most HR departments cannot currently do is determine the location of all their associates on a global basis. In cases like this, when a massive outbreak of a highly infectious virus is happening, having the ability to tell where people are is important to help mitigate exposure risk.
New software such as global talent mobility can help firms understand where people are, including both permanent and contract employees. Aragon has been tracking the new market for global talent mobility since 2017. This is a category of software that is projected to grow rapidly, in part because it helps firms manage their global mobility strategy.
6. Update Your Human Resources Policy
Enterprises should update their HR policies and guidelines to reflect recommendations in the event of an infectious disease outbreak if they do not already exist.
7. Keep Employees Updated
It’s important for the HR and executive team to monitor and notify employees when situations change on a regional basis. In the event of a serious outbreak such as the coronavirus, it is important to keep employees in the know on new preventative measures or health and safety guidelines that have been released by organizations like the CDC in the U.S.
8. Consider Employee Evacuation
While governments have already been evacuating people, enterprises may want to consider doing the same thing. If there is a large population of workers in an affected area, it may be worthwhile to relocate temporarily to a new location. This could entail coordination with governments and airlines to make sure evacuation can occur. It may also require additional assistance along the lines of the mandatory isolation guidelines offered by healthcare providers.
In general, human resources departments should strive to contain the spread of communicable diseases such as the coronavirus by emphasizing employee hygiene, monitoring the spread of infection, and considering more serious emergency protocols if necessary. In addition, companies will benefit from investing in global talent mobility management technologies.
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