Preventing and Preparing for Sickness in the Workplace

How are you changing workplace practices because of the COVID-19 health concerns? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other government officials are encouraging all businesses to be proactive in minimizing the risk of spreading this virus. One positive case might seem simple initially, but the virus can spread quickly and affect other employees and customers.

It’s always been important to keep your business safe by practicing good health and prevention in the office. Now, these practices are more important than ever – with a long list of guidelines that need to be followed.

How Sickness Can Affect Your Team

If you have a small business and just a few employees, bringing sickness into the workplace can lead to negative business outcomes because everyone needs to quarantine. Even in a medium or large size company, this virus can affect many people and take a toll on your daily productivity and results.

Unlike the common cold, COVID-19 might require a person to stay home for many days. These lost workdays not only results in a loss of income for the employee, but also makes it hard for your business to keep up with current demand.

Not only is your staff affected, but there is a risk of spreading the sickness to customers who are visiting your location. News stories have reported that some businesses have been shut down temporarily due to the spread of COVID-19. Not only does this situation require immediate action to determine how far the virus spread, but the business also needs to spend significant amounts of money on cleaning and sanitation.

Instead of waiting for an outbreak in your workplace, it’s better to be proactive with the proper safety measures to prevent health issues among your employees and customers. Keep reading to learn more about the best practices for workplaces of all sizes.

Who Needs to be Screened for COVID-19?

Using multiple checkpoints in the workplace is an important step to prevent the virus from disrupting your business. Even though it seems like a hassle to monitor symptoms and check in with employees, it’s a necessary step so you can avoid a business closure. Additionally, these health screenings can save you a substantial amount of money when you consider the expenses that would be required for professional disinfecting and cleaning services.

When should you use COVID-19 screenings? For employees, customers, and visitors, depending on your industry:

  • Employee Screenings: Every person should complete a screening questionnaire before coming into the workplace. Consider a policy to encourage people to stay in the office for the entire day instead of leaving for a lunch break (so you can avoid the need for a second screening).
  • Customer Screenings: It’s not always necessary to complete customer screenings. Consider your workplace environment and how close the customers are coming in contact with employees. For example, grocery stores and retailers aren’t choosing to use customer screenings since there is enough room for social distancing. On the other hand, COVID-19 screening is recommended for industries where people are in close proximity, such as medical appointments, massage therapy, salons, legal services, and other similar situations.
  • Visitor Screenings: If anyone else is coming onsite for services or as a visitor, then you should have that person complete a health evaluation as well. Alternatively, some businesses are limiting or prohibiting visitors to avoid the need to complete health screenings for people who aren’t required to be in the workplace.

Clear Sick Day Policy

One way to minimize the risk of someone coming to work with COVID-19 is to encourage a lenient sick day policy so employees feel comfortable staying at home. If someone is exhibiting symptoms, then encourage them to get tested or to stay home until the symptoms subside.

Additionally, these sick days should be offered for employees who have family members with symptoms. For example, parents need to be able to stay at home when their children are sick. Or, if a spouse or roommate has COVID-19 symptoms, then it’s possible that your employee could also be infected and bring it into the workplace.

Have a written sick day policy and share information about the time off options with your employees. Even though it means that you might be running a little tight on your staffing schedule, it’s worth having one employee stay home so you can prevent the spread to other employees.

Also, consider how these sick days fit in your benefits package. Talk to your accountant about how the sick days are calculated on payroll so that your books are handled correctly when it’s time to distribute paychecks.

Flexible Cancellation Policy

Not only do employees need flexibility with their schedules, but it’s also important to allow flexibility for customers as well. Having a flexible cancellation policy is important so people feel like they can change their appointment if symptoms arise.

Consider your industry and the way appointment changes might affect your schedule. Even if you have the cost of a few missed appointments here and there, it’s worth the disruption to avoid bringing COVID-19 into your workplace.

Daily Health Evaluations

Before each person steps foot in the workplace, you should have them fill out a health questionnaire. These check-ins can slow the spread by identifying potential symptoms in the earliest stages. One evaluation at the beginning of each workday is sufficient, although some businesses are requiring a second check-in if the employee leaves campus for lunch or another appointment.

Specific evaluation recommendations vary depending on your location. For example, some cities and states have strict guidelines about how employees need to be monitored when coming into the workplace.

A digital form is the simplest way to monitor employee health each day. You can have a form online that they fill out with their name and employee number. Then, have basic questions to evaluate potential symptoms that might indicate COVID-19.

Examples: Health Screening Form

Here are some examples of questions that you might use on your health screening form:

  • Do you have any of these symptoms? Check all that apply:
    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Shortness of breath
    • Sore throat
    • Loss of smell or taste
    • Muscle aches
    • Headaches
    • Vomiting
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Fatigue
  • Are any of your household members experiencing any of the symptoms listed above?
  • Have you traveled to any high-risk areas in the past two weeks?
  • In the last 14 days, have you come in contact with anyone that has tested positive for COVID-19?
  • Are you or a family member currently waiting for COVID-19 test results?

These questions cover the most important points that help you decide whether the employee or customer should be coming into the workplace. Many businesses are also choosing to implement a temperature check when people arrive on campus. For example, employees might have their temperature check when they walk through the front door – before going to their workspace.

Workplace Policies for Protecting Employees

A few other policies can be implemented in your workplace to limit the potential spread if an asymptomatic person comes into the building:

  • Social Distancing: Spread out the workstations so people have distance between employees. If there isn’t enough room for everyone to social distance, then you might stagger the work shifts or adjust working conditions. For example, plexiglass barriers can be placed between desks as an extra layer of protection.
  • Cleaning: It’s important that you ramp up your cleaning efforts. Have a cleaning schedule throughout the day to sanitize areas in common spaces. Cleaning should focus on any surfaces that might be touched by multiple people, such as bathrooms, tables, doorknobs, equipment, and more. If possible, limit the number of people that have access to these rooms and facilities.
  • Ventilation: Do you have good ventilation in the workspace? It might be a good time to upgrade your HVAC system with high-quality filters that can pull small particles out of the air. If the weather is nice outside, you can increase air circulation by opening the doors and windows.
  • Break Room: Encourage employees to eat at their desks instead of congregating in the break room. Or, people might choose to spend time outside social distancing while they share a meal together. Many companies are limiting exposure by discouraging the sharing of food. If you want to provide a meal for your team, then order from a restaurant that provides individually-packaged meals (instead of large serving trays that everyone shares).

Other Considerations for Your Business

COVID-19 is impacting your business financially in ways that you couldn’t have expected. More than ever, it’s important that you have a trusted accounting team to help with your financial strategy during these challenging economic times.

If you are looking for ways to weather the current difficulties, then Easier Accounting is just a phone call away. We offer accounting services for small businesses, including tax support, payroll processing, and more. Call today to discuss how these personalized services can be beneficial for your business: (888) 620-0770.

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