During turbulent times, it’s easy for employers to fear the unknown and put in place precautionary measures to protect business, and currently, it seems that the threat of the coronavirus has caused just that.
Many businesses including the likes of Google, Twitter, and Amazon have all put in place precautions such as allowing staff to work from home and banning all non-essential travel to help stop the spread of the virus.
However, this isn't the case for all employers. HR Grapevine can reveal off the record that both a large UK bank and leading advertising agency are continuing business as usual and are merely offering remote working options to safeguard their staff against the virus.
Cases in the UK have since jumped up to 87, the BBC reported, which of course may prevent some employers from staying calm, however, Phil Chambers, CEO and Co-Founder of Peakon, has issued some helpful advice to employers who are feeling fearful and cautious as cases continue to increase on UK shores.
“It’s vital that organisations engage in a continuous dialogue with their employees, so they have a real-time understanding of their needs and expectations and can always be in a position to take decisive action,” he said.
“Companies should provide employees with the autonomy to work flexibly – in terms of hours and/or location. Often this involves investment in the technology and tools employees need. If your company already has this, it is vital you keep lines of communication open, and reassure any staff staying home that they will not be penalised for doing so. Supporting and reassuring internal stakeholders with clear and carefully managed communication will help reduce confusion and panic.”
Speaking to HR Grapevine, People Director at Booking.com Ryan Cheyne recently said that it's HR's role to cover both bases. "We need to be honest and clear with employees, but fear-mongering isn't going to help anyone. For example, now, all of the soap we use is anti-bacterial, but to avoid anxiety, we ensure it's in a plain container. Walking that fine line between clarity without unnecessary stress is essential."
In its latest plans, the Government said that up to one-fifth of the workforce could be off sick at some point due to coronavirus and has advised individuals to regularly wash their hands, disinfect touched objects and surfaces and to not touch their eyes, nose or mouth if hands aren’t clean.
Similarly, England's Chief Medical Officer, Prof Whitty, has revealed that there could be ‘some risk of transmission’ from touching handrails and hard surfaces for up to 72 hours.
He added: “Just touching it will not give you the virus: it is if you touch it and then touch your face, having not washed your hands between them.
“So, if you go on to the Tube and touch the rail, that's fine, but just be aware of what you do with your hands – don't touch your face, wash your hands, and then you can do what you like.”
Therefore, if precautionary measures are put in place, for example adding hand washing guidance in staff toilets and rolling out extra hand sanitiser, as well as additional workplace guidance, there should be no issues regarding working as usual, so long as employees are aware of the importance when it comes to washing their hands.
This way, employers, employees and HR departments will be able to keep calm and carry on.