How to Help Protect Your Employees From COVID-19


COVID-19 continues to threaten public health, and employees are understandably apprehensive of their safety in the workplace. As an employer, you’re obligated to protect your team. But what does that entail? And where do you begin?

The best way to protect your workforce is, when possible, to offer flexible remote work options. But if your startup requires in-person processes, several federal organizations have provided blueprints for safety in the workplace. Using these standards as a benchmark, you can draft your own organizational policies and procedures to protect your team.

You can prevent COVID-19 from spreading in your workplace. Here’s how.

Establish New Safety Protocols

The CDC recommends implementing several new processes for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These include daily symptom assessments, physical distancing protocols, contact tracing procedures and enhanced cleaning processes. You have the right to ask employees about their symptoms and send them home if they present with any that could indicate an infection. Encourage employees to perform self-assessments for COVID symptoms before coming into the office.

Within the workplace, make an effort to maintain physical distancing. Remove some furniture to allow remaining pieces to be adequately spaced out, especially in breakrooms or areas where employees typically congregate. Consider staggering in and out times to prevent bottlenecks at entrances, exits and elevators. Stagger break times to avoid overlap, or reduce the number of hours per shift to minimize breakroom usage.

Have team members maintain notes on who they interact with each day. If an employee presents with COVID-like symptoms while at work, isolate that individual immediately and send them home or to their healthcare provider. If an employee tests positive, report the case to your local health authorities and use employee contact logs to identify anyone else at risk of exposure. Those team members should be tested and isolated until their healthcare provider declares them safe to return. Any areas exposed to infected employees should be cleaned swiftly and thoroughly.

You can find recommended safety guidelines from OSHA here.

Provide Access to Health-Preserving Resources

There are several resources employers should provide to protect workforce health and safety. The most essential benefit is paid sick leave. Most small organizations will be reimbursed for paying employees qualifying sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Ensure employees are aware that they have this resource and will be able to maintain an income even if they need to stay home and isolate.

Employers should also provide personal protective equipment (PPE), including facemasks, face shields and gloves. Team members should be required to wear the provided equipment when interacting with other employees or in spaces with shared ventilation (such as a cubicle environment). Make sure that team members always have access to clean PPE, hand sanitizer and cleaning materials, like sanitizing wipes.

Keep Your Team Informed and Educated

As you implement each of these new processes and protocols, communicate them and their importance to your team. Keeping everyone safe is a team effort, and employees need to understand how high the stakes are. This will help you cascade accountability for following new protocols throughout the team instead of enforcing it from the top.

To help drive home the importance of masking, symptom-checking and other new processes, consider inviting an epidemiologist from your local hospital or university to a group video call to explain how COVID spreads. Use the pandemic as an opportunity to educate your workforce on the dangers of the virus, reinforce basic hygiene procedures, and introduce new safety protocols.

Stay in the know!