It is important to plan, prepare and respond to the COVID-19 virus and what it means for your organization. Below you will find suggested steps to take when shelter in place and quarantine orders are given, recommended actions to take when COVID-19 cases are present within the workplace, and tips for maintaining a productive and supportive work environment from home.
A Shelter in Place Order is Given
Organizations should begin planning adjustments to operating procedures in the event shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders are executed by their local government. Delaying the communication of adjustments and SOPs may hamper leadership and employees’ abilities to share and execute a plan of action.
1. Determine whether your organization is considered non-essential or essential by following guidelines laid out in the shelter-in-place order given for your locality.
a. Typically, these orders allow movement of individuals for healthcare, food, and maintaining the critical infrastructure of the locality.
b. All other movements should be considered ‘non-essential.’
c. It is essential to comply with all orders given within your locality and state. It is important to slow the outbreak, and protect yourself, your loved ones, and community.
2. Research and understand any guidelines set forth by the state labor department as well as federal labor guidelines due to the Shelter in Place order.
a. State labor department links
b. Information is also usually shared on your State Governor’s website and on your state’s Health Department website
3. Determine what structure your organization can operate with during shelter-in-place based on whether your organization is essential or non-essential.
a. Limited Staffing
- In the case that your organization is considered essential, follow CDC guidelines to limit gathering sizes, as well as distancing, to determine staffing numbers in the building at any given time.
- Follow any guidelines given in your locality’s executive order.
- In the case that your organization or some employees are non-essential, notify and ensure employees have access to all necessary material and equipment to do their job remotely.
- Organizations should continue business meetings via conference calls or video conferencing to maintain an open line of communication and promote productivity.
c. Complete Closure
- In the case that your organization is non-essential and work cannot be done remotely, you may want to consider closing your organization.
4. Compare information from the state and federal level to your organization’s policies regarding pay, benefits, and utilization of vacation time. Use this information to develop an appropriate notification to send to your employees.
5. Notify employees of organization status changes.
a. This notification should lay out the organization’s new operating procedure, the employee’s roles and responsibilities, as well as information regarding pay, benefits, and utilization of vacation time.
6. In any operational changes, keep communication open with your employees. Be sympathetic, as this may be a major lifestyle change and will impact them as well as your organization. Give regular updates to encourage and ensure employees well-being. Regular updates to the evolving situation offer comfort in a time of great uncertainty.
7. For Further Information:
a. Department of Labor Website
b. OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplace COVID-19
An Employee(s) Tests Positive and has to go into Quarantine
Each situation is different, but physical and emotional support should be part of the analysis of how to proceed most effectively with those who must enter quarantine.
1. Employee in Quarantine
a. Public health recommendations may change during a crisis and differ between jurisdictions. Employers should obtain public health advice that is current and appropriate for their location
- Employers must comply with public health orders issued under the authorly of a federal, state or local entity
b. If an employee is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or reports that they may have been exposed, it is best to take precautionary measures and send the employee home to self-quarantine.
- This employee should follow their local health department guidelines on getting tested for COVID-19. If the employee tests negative, they may return to work per their healthcare provider’s advice.
c. If an employee(s) tests positive, the employee should be immediately sent home and isolated for at least 14 days per the CDC.
- Ask the infected employee when they tested positive
- Identify where the employee worked and have them try to recall all of the areas in the office/building where they were physically present
- Ask the infected employee to identify persons with whom they may have come in contact.
- Contact those identified employees and advise them that an individual that has been physically present in their work area has tested positive. Encourage them to self-quarantine and work remotely for the next 14 days.
d. Assure the infected employee that they will not be named to their coworkers as having contracted the virus. Doing so would be in violation of HIPAA guidelines.
- Follow pay guidelines set forth by the state and federal laws regarding the COVID-19 virus
- If possible, allow the employee to work remotely if the employee is well enough to do so
- Perform check-ins with the employee via phone, conference, etc. (depending on the individual’s health status)
2. Other Workers
a. Due to HIPAA regulations, the business cannot name the person who has been infected with the COVID-19 virus. The business can, however, alert other employees that there was a positive case.
b. The business should immediately begin cleaning/disinfecting procedures to prevent spread of the virus.
c. Inform employees of the symptoms to watch out for: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, tiredness, etc.
- If any employees are exhibiting symptoms, send them home for quarantine or to get tested for the virus
3. Cleaning Office Space After COVID-19 Exposure
a. It may be possible to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has COVID-19 on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. To reduce the passing of the virus, a room needs to be disinfected.
- Whether hiring an external company for cleaning, or sanitizing the workplace independently, ensure the following:
- Removal of virus from the air: Open windows and doors, and ensure HVAC vents are open to allow air exchange. Leave the room for as long as practical (minimum of at least 3.5 hours)
- Removing of virus from surfaces: Once the virus is removed from the air, clean the surfaces. If the surface is dirty, first clean the surface with soap/water, and then use sanitizing cleaners
* For electronic devices, use alcohol-based wipes or an alcohol-based spray. Before wiping away the sanitizing spray, make sure to allow the spray to sit on the surface in accordance with the recommended contact time printed on the packaging
* For other surfaces, use alcohol-based sprays/wipes, or use bleach (hypochlorite) sprays/wipes. Make sure to leave sanitizing solution on the surface according to the contact time recommended on the packaging
- Bleach solutions can be made by adding 5 tablespoons per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons per quart of water
* EPA list of recommended sanitization products
- Best practices and preventive measures to enact at the workplace:
- Stay at home if feeling unwell
- Seek medical attention for flu-like symptoms
- Avoid contact with those displaying signs of illness
- Wash hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently
- Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth, and eyes
- Wash hands often and for at least 20 seconds
- Sneeze into a tissue, handkerchief, or the crook of your elbow
- Avoid shaking hands/hugging
- Avoid sharing personal items and office supplies
- Make sure your workplace has adequate supplies of tissues, soap, paper towels, disposable wipes, sanitizer, and other necessary disposable products
- Ensure there is an aggressive cleaning regimen in place
- Keep office spaces clean, disinfecting frequently:
* office supplies
* bathroom faucets/counter space
* door handles
* light switches
* eating surfaces, before and after
* food storage areas
* meeting room surfaces
- Avoid licking fingers when separating paper products
- Keep food products secured in sealed containers
- Wash utensils/dishes before and after meals
- Properly dispose of unattended waste products
- For further information on preventative care:
- CDC link
- WHO link
4. Key Terminology
a. Isolation - Separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick
- Isolation is for those who have, or are suspected to have, a contagious disease
b. Quarantine - Separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick
- Self-monitoring might include regularly checking your temperature and watching for signs of a respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. It also includes limiting interaction with others (i.e. hugging, kissing, etc.)
c. Social Distancing is remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible
- Maintain that same 6-foot distance from anyone who is demonstrating signs of illness, including coughing, sneezing, or fever
Ensuring Productivity and Support While Working from Home
When working from home, it is important to continue to be productive and feel supported. Some tips for working efficiently, effectively and sanely are listed below.
1. Establish an Office Space
Make sure it is well organized and contains everything you will need for a productive workday (files, headphones, snacks, etc.). Your office space should also be a room in which you leave your work at the end of the day so it doesn’t feel like it is following you around the house.
2. Get Ready for the Day
Wake up, make the bed, wash your face, fix your hair, get dressed, and do everything you normally would to get ready for the day. You’ll feel more proactive and more like yourself.
3. Get into a Routine
Stick to your routine as much as possible. Schedule your day based on what works best for your work style and requirements at home.
4. Make a Daily Task List
A task list will help you stay focused and organized. Plan out what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and check it off your list when the task is complete. Unfinished items can be moved to the top of tomorrow’s task list at the end of each day so you have a good starting point in the morning.
5. Keep a Record of Your Activity Every Day
Keeping a detailed record of your activity every day forces reflection on productivity, establishes accountability, and sets a standard of accomplishment. Daily records can also help you refine your routine to make sure you are working effectively, as well as highlight achievements you might not otherwise notice.
6. Take a Break
Breaks can help you recharge and de-stress. Implementing breaks into your schedule will actually increase productivity, mental well-being and overall work performance.
7. Interact with Your Team
Interacting with your team is a key component of successfully working from home. Formal and informal kick-off/check-in/catch up group phone calls and video conferences can help to reduce feelings of distance and isolation.
8. Harness the Power of Technology
Harness the power of modern technology by setting calendar reminders or alarms to alert you when it is time to go from one task to another, take a break, join a remote meeting, and when it is time to call it a day. It is also important to make sure that the work you are doing from home is secure. Contact your employer to see if there is a dedicated company VPN, or consider using one of your own.
9. Procrastinate Proactively
If you know that you will get distracted by projects around the house, checking personal email, shopping online, browsing social media, walking your dog, playing with your kids, etc., be purposeful about building specific times for these into your work day so tackling them doesn’t feel like procrastinating. Set an alarm or calendar alert to both start and stop the activity, just as you would with any other work task.
10. Phone a Friend or Family Member
Connectedness is important. Set time aside to reach out to friends and family on a regular basis.
11. Mental and Physical Health
Your mental health is a priority while working from home, and so is your physical health. If at any point you are feeling unwell, it is important to take note of your symptoms and stay at home except to get medical care. Follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC for steps to take if you are sick.
12. Survival at Home
It is always best to be prepared – control what we can in preparation for what we can’t. Our forthcoming COVID-19 Response-Survival document will provide a compilation of information, resources and recommendations for water and food sourcing and supply, how to handle possible utility, service and logistical disruptions and a whole section on ideas for staying sane and entertained in and around the house.
*If working from home voluntarily by self-isolating due to exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19, your physical health and recovery is the priority. In these circumstances, continue to involve yourself in daily tasks only as recommended by your primary care physician.
DISCLAIMER and Hold Harmless
Disclaimer: LSDS™ gathers information from multiple sources and offers insight and perspective to travelers. Sources cannot be validated for accuracy in every instance. Travelers assume all risk associated with their travel and are responsible for the decisions associated with travel and for their own safety. Users of this reference document agree, to hold harmless LSDS™ (LLC) its employees and clients associated with any risk or injury incurred during travel.