COVID-19 Outbreak: What can HR do?

With cases of the Wuhan virus set to increase, it's important for employees to take precautions at their workplaces. It's better safe than sorry.
By: | January 28, 2020

The COVID-19 virus is slowly but surely spreading across the world especially in Asia given its proximity to China where it first started in Wuhan City.

Countries with confirmed cases include Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States.

And with the virus set to affect more countries around the world, it will inevitably have an effect on businesses and workplaces.

The worrying part about the virus is its ability to be transmitted through human-to-human contact such as handshakes or simply touching of infected surfaces. Its symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, headache, and fever.

So what can employers do to help prevent an outbreak in their offices?

1) Encourage handwashing and provide hand sanitizers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to protect yourself is by paying careful attention to cleanliness. Guidelines say a robust hand-washing should last for at least 20 seconds. HR can communicate with employees to encourage them to wash their hands frequently and also provide hand sanitizers around the office.

2) Provide masks

As the Wuhan virus has flu-like symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, headache and fever, HR should consider providing masks for employees to help prevent the spread of such symptoms. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

3) Disinfect office spaces

As the virus can be spread through touching of infected surfaces, it’s important to disinfect ‘high-touch’ surfaces such as door-knobs and common tables. HR can also provide disinfectant wipes to employees and encourage them to disinfect their personal workspaces.

4) Allow employees to work from home

While some companies already practice that, those that do not should consider allowing employees who have the symptoms or those who have just traveled to China to work from home during this period. This will prevent the spread of the symptoms and possibly the virus.

5) Avoid work travels to China

This is a no brainer. You wouldn’t want your employee to be heading to ground zero of the virus and bringing it back to your office. So as important as the meeting might be, business can wait as the health of your employees should be the priority.