In this very special episode we’re going to talk about what to do when an employee tests positive for Covid-19 at the workplace
We’re doing this segment because we’ve worked with a number of businesses in the past few weeks that had to scramble because an employee tested positive and they needed our help to quickly pivot to running their operations safely offsite or in the cloud. Needless to say, it’s been an interesting past few weeks and we expect this to become even more common over the coming months.
What has been the most surprising is how few resources and guidance there is available on this topic. There seem to be plenty of stuff out there on business survival tips, how to get a paycheck protection loan, using PPE in your workplace, instructions on how to wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs and so on. But, and this is a big but, the chances are high that there will be one or more people in your company who will come in contact with and may even test positive for Covid-19 and this scenario is only going to get only more likely as time goes on and until everyone on the planet is vaccinated.
So, where can you turn for guidance? We found an excellent resource from ProService a Hawaii staffing agency that was valuable to us during these outbreaks and we thought to share. Click here to download their straight-forward 3-step process you can print out and follow the moment an employee tests positive for Covid. It includes a checklist for each of these 3 steps and even sample templates to use, such as email notices to employees and scripts to use when showing empathy to coworkers.
So let’s get started on the 3 steps. Step 1 is to take immediate action. Step 2, minimize the spread and step 3 is to offer support.
Step 1: Take Immediate Action
Let’s face it, most folks won’t even admit to having high blood pressure let alone Covid. So the good news is that if you have an employee that has notified you that Covid is in the house, you’re ahead of the game. I recommend looking at the Proservice checklist as it does include some important tips, including identifying vendors and employees the individual may have come into close contact with, informing building management and thoroughly disinfecting the workplace according to CDC guidelines.
However, you should know that there is no requirement for employers to notify either the CDC or the department of health of a positive diagnosis. Furthermore, to comply with ADA, HIPPAA and other state laws, the fact that an employee contracted Covid should be kept confidential. In our dealings it’s been important to approach the situation and staff with empathy. Everyone is usually scared and a bit on edge and there’s even guilt and worry that they could have infected a fellow coworker.
From a technology standpoint, the typical functions that all employees need access to are:
• Access to a Line of Business App such as Quickbooks, CRM, database or other industry specific software
For smaller companies, the simplest thing to do has been to request that Hawaiian Tel or Spectrum simply forward calls to a designated person’s cell phone. For larger companies you may need to work with your phone service provider. If you already have a relatively modern system, employees can sometimes simply pick up their work phones and take them home after a quick re-program. It makes it completely transparent for clients calling your office but may take a little time for your provider to get that setup.
As for email and files, most organizations already have their email hosted by Google or Microsoft, which is in the cloud. Some companies such as those in architecture and construction work with large files and may have on-site servers. For those companies, erecting a VPN is simplest as it allows remote workers to connect to files at the office as if they were physically there. And of course, there is the sometimes it’s just easier to just pick up those computers in the office and have employees take them home.
Pro-tip: be sure the IT manager takes an inventory of every piece of equipment leaving the office, otherwise it might not return!
Step 2: Minimize the spread
In step 2 of this 3-step action plan, we’ll talk real quick about sanitizing the workplace. You don’t need me to tell you how to clean your office. Just be sure to use disposable personal protection equipment such as gloves, masks and gowns.
Pro tip: if at all possible, wait 24 hours before beginning the cleaning and disinfection process to reduce exposure to respiratory droplets that might still be in the air. Also, try to have windows and doors open while cleaning to get air flow into the space.
Step 3: Offer support
Remember, it’s a scary situation for everybody so listen to employee concerns and share practical advice about working from home and minimizing the risk of catching Covid. For all employees who will now be working and self-quarantining, be sure to:
- Do a temperature check twice per day for 2 weeks
- Avoid sharing personal household items
- Stay hydrated
- Remain at home, only leaving for medical care
- See if you can have groceries, meals and medications dropped off by family, friends or delivery services
- Try to stay in a room separate from fellow family members
Be sure to seek immediate medical attention if you have trouble breathing, have persistent chest pressure or pain, a lasting high temperature or bluish lips or face.
For employers who may need assistance with paying for employees who have contracted Covid-19, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was designed to help. It covers 80 hours of sick leave, in the form of tax benefits to the employer, regardless of whether the employee has accrued sick leave or not. Be sure to reach out to your CPA or HR manager for guidance.
The good news is that the world will not stay on lock down forever. There will be sporting events, movies, family gatherings, concerts, charity runs, cruises and fingers-crossed, Disneyland in our future. There are currently over 70 Covid-19 vaccines in various stages of clinical trials and because Covid is everywhere, vaccines are really easy to test! We all just need to hang in there a little while longer.
Hopefully this video has been interesting and informative and if you know of someone who might benefit from it, pass it along. We’re all in this together and thank you for giving us the opportunity to be of service to the community.
Stay safe out there