The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a rethink of business practices around the globe. It has forced HR professionals to redefine their talent acquisition strategies. It has exposed the challenges for emerging technologies in organizational management. It has resulted in massive layoffs and permanent shutdowns.
With the virus not showing signs of slowing down, companies must take drastic measures to ensure the safety of their employees. The IMF has stated that the virus brought the unemployment rate in the U.S. to 8.9% from the previous 3.7%. The stats paint a gloomy picture of what the future would look like. (source: www.bbc.com/news/business-51706225)
How Has COVID-19 Disrupted Small Businesses?
The unprecedented emergence of the virus last year led to a widespread shutdown of businesses. In fact, the number of active small businesses dropped by 3.3 million between February and April 2020. This was the largest dip recorded in the country’s history. The figures were revealed by the Institute of Labor Economics in September 2020.
Small businesses that have been hit the hardest by the virus include gyms, restaurants, shops, bars, hotels, cinemas, and schools. The pandemic has cost the hotel and hospitality industry close to four million jobs. Over 670,000 of these jobs belonged to the operations category. Analysts predict that the hotel and hospitality industry won’t recover from the disastrous effects of the pandemic until 2024. (source: www.ahla.com/sites/default/files/2021_state_of_the_industry_0.pdf)
Employers must ensure workplace safety in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Small businesses are extremely vulnerable to permanent closure. The risks associated with virus spread also run high within small enterprises. But the good news is that we now have greater awareness about the pandemic than we did last year.
How To Control the Spread of COVID-19 At Work?
Businesses must take every possible measure to ensure employee and customer safety. The consequences of adopting a lax attitude can be disastrous. We’ve already witnessed the tremendous implications of the virus. Every owner must understand the severity of the situation and play their part in controlling it.
Devise a COVID-19 Control Strategy
Employers must draft an actionable strategy to combat the spread of the virus at workplaces. An effective strategy seeks to highlight the potential risks as well as solutions. You must encourage both employees and customers to follow these guidelines. Your strategy must include pictorial representations of ways to disinfect.
It is important that you assess all the risks associated with the virus outbreak. Am I following all the guidelines issued by the government and health authorities? Is my staff following the respiratory etiquettes during working hours? Is the workplace regularly cleaned and disinfected? Your response must cater to different scenarios.
Make sure that you are aware of the means through which your employees come to work. If they use public transportation, encourage them to adopt flexible routines. Some companies issue car allowances to their employees to facilitate them in their commute.
The national health agency recommends hiring workplace coordinators to see to concerns related to the virus. These individuals are required to ensure the smooth functioning of workplaces and manage emergency response in case of virus spread.
Promote Social Distancing
Health experts recommend a distance of six feet in order to prevent the spread of the virus. However, this practice is easier said than done for most small business owners. This holds especially true for restaurants operating in compact spaces and roadside shops.
If possible, limit worksite access to essential workers. You can ensure social distancing through signboards and floor displays. Many companies use floor markings and signage to encourage customers to ensure physical separations. Make sure that you use easy and comprehensible wording to convey your intent.
Allow a limited number of entrants during peak hours. If you operate a restaurant, consider establishing an outdoor dining facility if possible. Discourage your employees to mingle with each other during recess hours. Moreover, advise them against using each other’s equipment and smartphones in order to control the spread of the virus.
Ensure Mask Wearing
Health experts stress mask-wearing as it is seen to reduce the spread of the virus. Wearing of masks is mandatory in many countries around the world. Non-compliance with the order could result in heavy fines by the state. Make sure that you properly ensure masks during work hours.
While you cannot force your customers to wear masks, you can convey your intent in a polite way. Install signages and health safety messages to promote awareness regarding mask-wearing. Many businesses place “No Mark, No Service” signs outside their stores. While this is a more direct approach, it can lead to confrontation between the employer and hardline customers.
Allow Flexible Work Shifts
The pandemic has prompted businesses to show more flexibility in their operations. Remote work is still being practiced around the world. Many companies have incorporated flexible working routines to prevent the spread of the virus. If you rely on manual labor, make sure that they adhere to the cleanliness standards set by the health authorities.
Draft a Flexible Leave Policy
Nobody wants a sick employee coming into work. Encourage your employees to report any health and safety concerns. Make sure that you develop an effective communication channel to facilitate your employees at all times. Draft a flexible sick-leave policy to ensure the safety and well-being of your workers.