As the world continues to monitor the spread of the coronavirus, business leaders should prepare for the possibility of having an employee contract the virus.
If and when this happens, employers must be sensitive and smart about how they respond for the safety of their employees and their businesses.
1. Consider your ill employee's emotional well-being
Proactive empathy and clarity can go a long way in supporting your employees’ well-being, which will become critically important as concerns about their health, their family’s health and their ability to earn a living arise.
A sick employee shouldn't have to wonder whether they'll be able to make up the work or if they'll have a job after the illness passes. They should focus on rest and recuperation, only coming back to work when they feel physically, mentally, and emotionally able to do so.
Affected employees may or may not have tapped public or private mental health resources to cope with their anxiety, so as an employer, it’s important to be empathetic. Consider asking how they are doing psychologically—depending on what you hear, consider pointing them in the direction of therapeutic online resources.
2. Be fair and generous about missed work
You want employees who express symptoms of COVID-19 to stay at home, but they may be reluctant to do so if their livelihoods are on the line. To make them comfortable with being unable to work, proactively communicate your business' policies and the laws and regulations designed to support people who contract COVID-19.
Although COVID-19 might render you short staffed, be careful about overloading your healthy employees.
3. Be selective when sharing information with team members
How and who you inform about an employee diagnosis is a delicate manner, and there are nuances business owners should think about.
When you do communicate status to other team members, notifying employees that a coworker in their office/facility has tested positive and reaffirming the company’s commitment to the affected individual's privacy. Explain that the reason for the notice is to maintain transparency and allow the employees to make informed health decisions.
4. Safeguard your business from exposure
The specific measures you'll need to take depend on your business and your local governments’ mandates. You might consider enforcing social distancing, increasing sanitation practices and screening employees (e.g. instead of relying on employees to self-report symptoms, you might want to scan their temperatures as they enter the workspace).
There's a lot of fear in the air, and your people will look to you for reasonable and compassionate action. Not only is doing right by COVID-19 affected and unaffected employees during this time period—it helps preserve the long-term health of your business.
This article was adapted from an earlier version https://amex.co/3dSmGx1
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.