Friday, April 17, 2020

Coronavirus update 4-17-2020: Preparing your workplace for a restarted economy … plus a podcast and some music

President Trump has been talking for weeks about restarting the economy and getting employees back to work. Last night he unveiled his three-phased guidelines to reopen the country. (I’m ignoring the scary fact that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was one of its key architects.) And now governors around the country (with whom the actual reopening authority actually rests) are joining the conversation.

Yesterday, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio (who has been internationally praised for his forward-thinking handling of the coronavirus crisis in my state) announced that businesses in Ohio will begin slowly reopening starting May 1.

It’s unclear yet which businesses will be first to reopen (let me suggest non-essential manufacturing) or what standards they will be required to meet as a condition to opening and remaining open.

As to the latter, I have some thoughts, which fall into three different categories, and which should be absolutely required of any business before the state permits it to reopen. (Governor DeWine, I’m here if you want to talk about how these requirements should work.)

  1. Infection prevention measures.
  2. Identification and isolation of sick employees.
  3. Flexible workplace programs.

1/ Infection prevention measures.
  • Require social distancing of employees of at least 6 feet at all times while in the workplace, unless a closer distance is absolutely necessary to perform the job.
  • Provide face masks or other coverings, gloves, and other PPE in the workplace and mandate their use.
  • Limit, or outright prohibit, non-employee visitors to the business.
  • Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Established staggered shifts, start-times, breaks, and meals.
  • Require workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes, including providing tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, whenever possible.
  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment.
  • Continue to limit travel, and only consider it for mission-critical trips.

2/ Identification and isolation of sick employees.
  • Require regular (i.e., daily) temperature screenings before employees are permitted to enter the workplace.
  • Inform employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of coronavirus if they suspect possible exposure.
  • Develop policies and procedures for employees to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Develop policies and procedures for immediately isolating people who have signs and/or symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Prepare a protocol to advise employees of a potential workplace coronavirus exposure, and consider having those employees self-quarantine for 14 days to limit the spread of the virus among employees.

3/ Flexible workplace programs.
  • Continue to promote telework whenever feasible and practical.
  • Offer alternative transportation for employees who rely on mass transit.
  • Require sick employees to stay home, including contract or temporary employees, until they are symptom-free for 72 hours.
  • Forego a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work.
  • Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member, and for employees who are high risk (those age 65 and over, and those with underlying health conditions including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised by chemotherapy) or live with someone who is high risk.

Just because our government leaders say businesses can start to plan to reopen does mean that all have a green light to do so. In fact, we need to do this slowly and deliberately, with careful planning and thought. Otherwise, cases will rebound and spike, and we’ll be right back where we were a week ago, if not worse off. Businesses should view reopening as a flashing red light. Stop, think, and do not proceed until you are convinced that it is reasonably safe to do so.

We are all anxious to get the economy moving again. We just can’t do so in a reckless way that will cause the virus to rebound and inflict way more damage than we’ve already suffered. I have grave reservations about restarting the country this soon and easing too many restrictions too quickly (as does two-thirds of Americans, according to a Pew Research Center survey). I just hope that we are acting smartly, and that the people who are in charge of these decisions are not moving recklessly.

Finally, it wouldn’t be Friday if I didn’t leave you with at least a couple of links.

1/ Last night I appeared on DriveThru HR. Thank you so much to Mike VanDervort and Robin Schooling for inviting me and for the great conversation. We talked coronavirus (of course), blogging, and what we’re binge-watching. You can listen here, or in the player embedded below.

2/ Rhett Miller gave Norah and Fake ID a sweet shout-out during his Wednesday night quarantine concert on StageIt. You can watch here, or in the player embedded below.

Everyone have a safe, healthy, and restful weekend.

* Photo by Lisa Walton on Unsplash