The whole “work from home” thing has really caught on in recent years. Employers have used remote work policies as a way to cut costs, increase employee happiness, and deepen their talent pool. Now, some companies are turning to work from home policies for another reason: to avoid a public health crisis from the recent coronavirus outbreak.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19), which originally broke out in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China, according to CDC articles, has recently spread to other countries, including the United States. As of March 11, 2020, there 938 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the USA, with a reported 29 fatalities (source: CDC.gov).
To put this in perspective, the CDC estimates that influenza affects between 9 and 45 million Americans, and results in 12,000 – 61,000 deaths every year. So, the coronavirus outbreak doesn’t seem so bad in comparison thus far—though it has the potential to become much worse.
At any rate, to help protect employee health and promote workplace safety, many employers are starting to take measures against coronavirus infections. One such measure is enforcing a work from home policy with employees.
Coronavirus and Work from Home
So, what does enforcing a remote work policy have to do with preventing the spread of coronavirus? The big benefit is that it prevents anyone who may be infected with coronavirus from spreading the contagion to their coworkers.
The virus behind the latest public health crisis is spread primarily from person-to-person in a manner similar to the common cold/influenza. Coronavirus can be transmitted by close contact or through “respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes” (Source: CDC Steps to Prevent Illness).
Because the virus can persist in respiratory droplets, it may be transmittable through casual contact with surfaces that infected persons have sneezed or coughed on, or touched with their hands.
By having employees work from home for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak, employers can minimize the risk of their employees getting infected. Not only is this good for employee health, it can provide numerous benefits.
The Benefits of Work from Home
Some of the benefits that companies using remote work policies have reported include:
- Increased Employee Productivity. Without distractions from a busy work environment, many employees have achieved increased productivity.
- Improved Employee Retention. Having to replace employees who leave can be a major burden in recruiting, onboarding, and lost productivity costs. Happy and productive employees are more likely to stay—which work from home policies help with.
- Reduced Overhead Costs. With a strong remote work policy, employers don’t have to retain large office spaces—helping to reduce overhead without sacrificing work capacity.
- Increased Access to Talent. By allowing people to work remotely, employers can access a larger talent pool than they could if they were to require people to commute to the office.
- Reduced Travel Time and Expenses. Employees who work from home can skip the morning commute—saving time and money on dealing with traffic and vehicle maintenance.
- Increased Schedule Flexibility. By skipping the commute and being free to take small breaks for lunch or other errands, employees can enjoy a more flexible daily schedule.
In short, companies can cut costs and increase productivity while employees can enjoy a better work-life balance and avoid some of the inconvenient costs of having to commute to work.
Infographic: Tips for Preventing Coronavirus at Work
Looking to limit the spread of coronavirus (and other infectious diseases) at your office? Here are a few simple tips that you can share with your employees:
- Wash Your Hands! The CDC strongly recommends that you wash your hands “with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.”
- Use Hand Sanitizer. If you cannot easily access a sink and soap to wash your hands, use a disinfecting solution such as hand sanitizer to sterilize your hands.
- Do Not Touch Your Eyes, Nose, or Mouth. Your eyes, nose, and mouth can be easy ways for coronavirus to infect you—or for an infected person to spread it.
- Avoid Close Contact. Keep back from people who are sick if you can to avoid accidental exposure. If coronavirus is spreading in your community, try to avoid other people—even those who appear healthy—as much as possible.
- If You Get Sick, Stay Home. Note to all employees: Your bosses don’t need you to show up in person to deliver that report as much as they need you to stay home and focus on recovery. Let your employer know that you’re sick, let them know the cause, and then seek medical attention!
- Cover Your Nose and Mouth. If you feel a sneeze or a coughing fit coming on, be courteous—cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or appropriate substitute.
- Dispose of Used Tissues in the Trash. Done with that tissue? Trash it so nobody else has to touch it. Also, wash your hands after sneezing/coughing if you can.
- Consider Using a Facemask if You’re Sick. If you get sick, consider using a facemask to help protect others from accidental exposure. Otherwise, save the mask for others who are sick.
- Keep Your Workspace Clean. Once a day, you should inspect your work area and clean it up with disinfectant wipes and cleaning solutions. This should be done for all frequent-contact surfaces (like keyboards, mice, doorknobs, desks, etc.).
Keeping your office clean and your employees healthy is of the utmost importance in a public health crisis.
Wondering how to keep your employees productive while they’re working from home? Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Office 365 may be the perfect solution for your needs! Learn more by reaching out to the Protected Trust team today!