This has also resulted in a knock-on effect for Australian businesses, workplaces and organizations, who must try and ensure the continued smooth flow of operations whilst simultaneously planning for potential disruptions caused by the virus, both internally and externally.
During uncertain times like this, communication and engagement tools are useful for businesses to keep their teams both informed and for gauging how they are coping. The following information is a handy guide for both individuals and organizations to help minimise disruption and keep both your team and business on track.
Now is a good time to share this information with your workplace, and please remember to keep up to date with the latest news and updates from the relevant authorities (such as the World Health organization), as it is a constantly evolving situation.
How COVID-19 spreads
According to the Australian Government Department of Health, the coronavirus is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:
- Direct close contact with a person while they are infectious
- Close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes
- Touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.
Most infections are only transmitted by people when they have symptoms. These can include fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness and shortness of breath.
General health tips for Australian businesses
Queensland Health advises that everyone at work has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and all employees at any organization owe each other a duty of care to take reasonable precautions for their own health and safety, and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others.
As per Queensland Health guidelines, workers should be reminded to always practice good hygiene, as well as other measures to protect themselves and others against infection. These include:
- Covering one’s mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Seeing a healthcare professional if starting to feel unwell
- If unwell, avoiding contact with others (including shaking hands, or other touching such as hugging), and staying at home if possible.
- Washing hands often, preferably with soap and water, or hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available.
Here’s an example of posters we’ve created and displayed in our office. Feel free to download and use for your business.
Preventing the spread of infection at work
The below information has been sourced from the latest information from the Australian Government Department of Health, we encourage you to keep across developments as they unfold. When drawing up and implementing guidelines and measures to best help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 in your organization, consider the following areas of your business that may be impacted:
- Health Any team member with flu-like symptoms should immediately isolate themselves away from the office, and either start sick leave or work from home if they feel able and willing. It’s important to encourage employees to seek medical advice early, and you should keep in contact with them to understand their status. Remember to be supportive, as this will personally be a stressful time.
- Office hygiene Keeping the workplace environment clean and hygienic is a must, and providing hand washing facilities, as well as alcohol-based sanitisers, tissues and cleaning supplies will help ensure this is the case. Displaying posters on hand washing and respiratory hygiene will also help, and regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces such as door handles and workstations will contribute to the prevention of contamination.
- Visitor protocol All visitors should be made aware of your company policies around hygiene and in response to COVID19. It is best to proactively share this information with potential visitors in advance. Team members responsible for coordinating a meeting with an external person should require all participants to confirm that they have not visited any High Risk Destinations within 14 days prior to the date of the meeting. Where a meeting participant has visited a High Risk Destination within 14 days prior to the meeting, arrangements should be made to hold the meeting via video conference, or to delay it.
- Travel For travel restrictions, Smart Traveller currently provides the best and most up to date advice on countries with current health warnings. Restricting travel to these hot spots is strongly recommended, and this applies to both international and domestic locations. Given the changing landscape, it’s a good idea to book flights and accommodation that can be refunded if needed. We are seeing some businesses putting a complete pause on all non-essential travel, and others reassuring team members that they shouldn’t feel obligated to to undertake any planned work travel if they feel uncomfortable. As this is a quickly evolving event, team members who are travelling need to be warned that if travel advisories are updated while they are away, they may find on their return they could be facing a quarantine period. You should be asking any of your team who are travelling to: • ensure that they have their Company laptop at home, in case they are required to work from home upon their return; and • advise HR and their direct manager of their travel destination(s) and dates.
- Confirmed case If one or multiple employees are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, seek advice from the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It’s important to consider the risk of broader infection within your office. Confidentially telling co-workers about possible exposure to COVID-19 is suggested, and as in all cases, everyone should seek immediate medical advice if they are concerned about potential symptoms. In any case, all business should be forming a plan in case a partial or total office shut down is required.
Guidance for specific industries is available at the Australian Government Department of Health, and for any questions specific to your business we encourage you to get in touch with the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.
What businesses can do to minimise disruption
With the potential for many or all employees of a company being required to self-quarantine or work from home, having normal, constant and open lines of communication open is especially important, and there are a few areas where an effective feedback and engagement tools can help facilitate this.
One area is having the ability to send out ad-hoc policies and announcements, as this will help make sure everyone in the business is across the latest news and updates. Some common examples might be the need to send out a regular updates to a Coronavirus response policy, or a general update keeping everyone abreast of what’s happening in the business. Having oversight of these regular rollouts ensures nothing gets missed, and also gives managers or HR the opportunity to easily identify who hasn’t reviewed the updates for easy follow-up.
Another area that is key is feedback, and a strong feedback tool is imperative to making sure everyone is engaged with their work and feeling good about things, even when geographically spread out and potentially distracted by the news around COVID-19. Tools such as continuous check-ins and the ability to voice confidential concerns via on-demand feedback form, will help you keep informed about how your team is really coping.
If the correct health procedures are followed, and best practices around keeping employees up to date and informed, then disruption to your business can be kept to a minimum.
Editor’s note: This article is based on the coronavirus and COVID-19 situation as of March 11. It’s important to remember that the situation is rapidly developing and official advice may change.