The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe. Currently, millions of positive cases are ripping through the United States and Europe. There are over 52 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and nearly 1.3 million deaths.
As winter nears, the pandemic is only intensifying. Hospitalizations are on the rise and there is a renewed emphasis on flattening the curve. There is also increased risk as colder temperatures bring the flu season.
Read on to learn how to prepare your business for Covid-19 winter weather surges. Explore key strategies for keeping your business operating at full capacity in a time of heightened safety risk.
Winter Increases the Risk of Infection
You may be wondering why experts are so concerned with winter Covid-19 surges. The primary reason is that colder temperatures push more consumers and employees indoors. Virus transmission is significantly more likely in an indoor environment.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are pumping contaminants throughout the office space. These viral particles are trapped in an enclosed space. Lastly, cooler air temperatures also allow the virus to live longer.
Essentially, biology and behavior patterns are behind the risk of winter Covid-19 surges. Now that you understand the elevated threat, it is time to start preparing your company for winter.
Your company cannot maintain the status quo as it pertains to hygiene and site disinfection. Standard janitorial services are not sufficient to mitigate risk during a global pandemic. Instead, we recommend contracting out to a technical services company to perform industrial-level decontamination.
The process starts with a site survey and a work scope determination. The site survey identifies potential hazards that need to be addressed. The technical services team also develops policies and procedures to combat viral transmission.
The next step is to mobilize and implement deep cleaning at the facility. This includes intensive disinfectant techniques to minimize the risk of transmission in the facility.
These decontamination services are a critical component of an emergency response plan. In the event of a Covid-19 outbreak at your facility, industrial-level decontamination can be mobilized swiftly.
With hundreds of thousands of positive cases confirmed each day, your company needs to prepare for the worst. What plans are in place in the event one of your employees tests positive for Covid-19?
It is imperative that you have a contact tracing operation in place. This way, you can confidently determine who the infected employee interacted with.
The goal is to isolate employees who were in contact with the virus. Anyone who was in contact with the infected employee should self-quarantine. They should take a rapid-action Covid-19 test to see if they have also been infected.
Contact tracers will review work logs and daily schedules to trace the infected employee’s interactions. Then, they will notify each employee or customer who was possibly in contact.
Tracers also provide follow-up support to infected employees. They monitor their medical condition and provide support when necessary.
Work from Home
To minimize physical human interaction, you should encourage working from home to the maximum extent possible. Experts agree that dense populations in an indoor environment are a Covid-19 risk. Your company can reduce the office headcount this winter by transitioning some employees to remote working.
Of course, this policy only applies to workers that can perform their core job duties outside of the office. For example, administrative and financial employees can convert to remote working.
Fewer employees in the office minimize the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak. In the event that there is a positive case, a remote work posture helps maintain productivity.
Gallagher Bassett published a work from home toolkit to help businesses convert from an onsite to a remote workforce. To get started, ensure employees have the physical hardware to complete their job functions.
At the basic level, do employees have a computer and internet capability? To communicate with customers and colleagues, do they have cameras and headsets?
Software is the next piece of the equation. If the employee is not using a company computer, do they have all the software necessary to perform their job duties?
For instance, financial employees likely use accounting software. It is incumbent upon the management to ensure this software is installed on each employee’s computer.
Lastly, you need policies and procedures in place to maintain remote working productivity. Some managers like employees to check-in and out with an e-mail or phone call.
Others require employees to return a phone call within 30 minutes to 1 hour. It is on management to set clear expectations for employees working from home and also hold them accountable.
One of the most important ways to combat the coronavirus pandemic is by changing your company's culture. Businesses cannot operate the same way that they did in the past.
In the past, employees were thought of as committed or tough if they came to work with cold or flu-like symptoms. There was a positive connotation for employees that gutted out sickness and showed up regardless of how they were feeling.
Now, the opposite is true. Employees who are honest about illness and elect to stay home are compassionate. They are prioritizing the health of others and long-term success of the organization.
Another part of the culture change is encouraging employees to wear a mask and frequently wash their hands. Consider installing hand sanitizing stations throughout the facility to reinforce this commitment to hygiene.
We recommend holding training sessions to highlight the severity of Covid-19. Here, you can explain that the coronavirus is nothing like the flu and is far more lethal. Explain how an outbreak would affect the organization and that these policies are designed to promote employees' safety.
Preparing for Covid-19 Winter Weather Surges
Winter is coming and the second wave of Covid-19 cases is rocking the United States and Europe. There is still time to adequately plan for Covid-19 so that your company can maintain full operations during the winter.
Taking steps like hiring decontamination services or contact tracing go a long way. These actions minimize the risk of an outbreak that will shut down business operations. They also demonstrate a commitment to employees' safety and health.
If your company needs help preparing for Covid-19 winter weather surges, contact us today to speak with an expert.
Chip D'Angelo has 40+ years of industry experience, and is the division president of GB Technical Services. Find him on LinkedIn.
Kapil Mohan has 15+ years of industry experience , and is a senior vice president at GB. Find him on LinkedIn.