How to Keep Employees of Small Businesses Safe During COVID-19
We can’t go a few moments without hearing about COVID-19. The pandemic quickly affected the whole world and how we live our lives.
The knock-on effects of the virus have seen the economy take a down-turn and small businesses across the country are feeling the toll.
Many businesses and their employees are experiencing anxiety, stress and worry about the unknown and as managers, it is our job to keep our staff safe and comforted through this strange time.
The safest option for everyone is to follow the government guidelines and allow working from home where possible. If staff are classed as vulnerable, they should be self-isolating to protect them from catching the virus.
But what if we are unable to offer the option to work from home? Manual labourers, shop workers and similar businesses still need to keep afloat during this time or we are at risk of losing too much revenue which could lead to redundancies and even more anxiety for our workers.
If you can not carry on your business with staff working remotely, it is your responsibility to make sure every team member is as safe as possible.
Personal Protective Equipment
PPE should be worn by everyone in the business, no matter where your work takes place. Gloves, facemasks and face guards should be readily available.
There, unfortunately, is a shortage of these across the country but with the right planning, you should be able to provide them.
Whatever items you can get hold of, make sure you train your staff to use them correctly. It can be easy to assume we all know how to fit a face mask but without having had to wear one before, how are we meant to know?
HSE has a great guide on how to properly wear your PPE here.
It’s a phrase we didn’t really know a few months ago but now social distancing is on all our minds. Even if our staff aren’t showing symptoms of Coronavirus, they can still be carrying it.
It is therefore crucial that we all keep our distance from anyone not in our household. Staff should keep at least 2m away from each other at all times and any customers that may visit should be told to do the same.
Using markings on the floor can help as a reminder and a guide as a busy working day can easily lead to people forgetting to keep this distance.
Update Emergency Contacts
We all have that list of employees’ emergency contacts stored away just in case but are these contacts practical in this situation?
Some staff may have listed someone who is now having to self-isolate or perhaps they live far away?
Ask your staff to provide a new contact, even if it just a temporary measure, who would be the person to call if they are needed.
Ideally, they need to be someone within their household, who is not vulnerable and able to travel to your work easily and safely.
Washing our hands is the most effective thing we can do to prevent the spread of the virus. Set up more areas in the building where staff can wash their hands more frequently with water and antibacterial soap.
You can even set alarm reminders as staff can easily forget when they are busy getting work done.
If you don’t have enough places to set up hand washing stations, provide hand sanitizer in obvious places throughout the building. This doesn’t replace the effectiveness of handwashing but it is the next best thing.
Whatever your current cleaning routine is, it’s time to up it! Where floors used to have a mop once a week, make it daily, kitchens that were cleaned at the end of each day, make it twice a day.
It probably seems a bit much but Coronavirus can live on soft surfaces for around 24 hours and hard surfaces for 72 hours. If you or your staff are not experienced cleaners, it may be easy to miss areas that have become infected.
Kitchens and food preparation areas should always have the most attention, as this is where we will be eating and removing facemasks to do so. Make sure staff know how to deep clean a kitchen.
Cleaning as often as possible minimises the chance of anything being missed and the virus infecting anyone.
It isn’t just the physical health of our employees that matter at this time. A large number of the population will not become ill during the pandemic but will feel the effects mentally instead.
Looking after vulnerable loved-ones, kids being at home all day, financial worries and not being able to socialise is causing rising levels of stress and anxiety in the country and this could lead to poor mental health.
Offer support, provide resources such as websites or helplines for those struggling. Even a simple conversation from a friendly face to allow staff to vent can make a world of difference.
Back to social distancing, it can be a bit of a nightmare trying to keep 2m apart when you are already in a crowded workplace.
If you split shifts, you reduce the number of bodies in one place and still get the full working hours you had previously before lockdown.
You may even be making life easier for some staff members, they may have children they need to care for during the day while a partner has to work, they could opt for a night or evening shift instead.
It can be hard to keep track of changing shifts if you aren’t used to this so use a cloud-based HR system, such as cezannehr.com. It reduces the need for timesheets which is another item that could become contaminated and means you can update shift patterns remotely. It’s certainly the easiest way to keep track of everyone’s hours.
Protecting staff should be everyone’s number 1 priority while running your business during this lockdown. Our staff are what makes our company great and without looking after them, we could see disastrous consequences.
Remember, we are all in the same boat, one we have never been in before so there will, of course, be some trial and error and things may not run as smoothly as before, but we can try our best in this bad situation.