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Work Culture | 5 min

What to do if a team member contracts COVID-19?

What to do if a team member contracts COVID-19?

Support the One – Protect the Many

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has already had a major impact globally, and this is only set to continue into the foreseeable future. Knowing what to do when a team member contracts COVID-19 is not only important for your workplace, but also to help control the virus.

After reading this article, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand how Coronavirus spreads from person to person
  • Enact the three steps to help reduce the spread of the virus
  • Know what to do when a team member contracts COVID-19
  • Provide your team with the correct support
  • Communicate effectively with your team

 

Understanding how Coronavirus spreads

The transmission of this virus is most likely to occur through one of the following scenarios;

  • Being within 1.5 meters of an infected person 
  • Being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person
  • Excessive touching of your face after coming into contact with a surface (door-handle or table) that an infected person has touched.

 

Three steps to help reduce the spread of the virus

To help ease the transmission of COVID-19, there are three courses of action that can be undertaken as preventative measures. 

  1. Cleaning and hygiene

Keep high-touch surfaces clean and hygienic and make sure there is an effort to clean them regularly with bleach or disinfectant. Rather than solely using hand sanitiser, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds whenever possible. If you feel like you need to sneeze or cough, make sure you do this into the crook of your arm. By keeping your hands free, clean, and not sneezing into them, you’re helping out those who come into contact with surfaces you’ve touched.  

  1. Social distancing 

Social distancing has quickly become part of the Coronavirus lingo, but what does this term actually mean for everyone?  The Department of Health has set out the below guidelines to help implement social distancing in the workplace and clarify recommendations to ease the spread:

  • Stop handshaking as a greeting
  • Hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call
  • Defer large meetings
  • Hold essential meetings outside in the open air if possible
  • Take lunch at your desk or outside rather than in the lunch room
  • Consider opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for more ventilation
  • Limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace
  • Reconsider non-essential business travel
  • Promote strictest hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts
  • Consider if large gatherings can be rescheduled, staggered or cancelled
  1. Self isolate if sick

If you’re feeling a bit under the weather, and are showing any flu-like symptoms, it’s best if you stay at home. This will not only help you to feel better, but will also allow your co-workers to have some peace free from your possible spluttering!

The symptoms of Coronavirus are being constantly updated, making sure that you’re keeping up to date with the latest information by making time to check in with government resources.

 

What to do when a team member contracts COVID-19

When you first hear that one of your team members potentially has COVID-19, your mind may run in several directions -wondering if they’re ok, who has been close to them, and also, who’s going to do their job?. 

Employees should feel comfortable and supported in their decision to self-isolate knowing that this is for their health and the health of their team. It also should be clearly communicated that if an employee decides to take that action, they need to speak immediately with their employer so the necessary steps can be taken and the contingency plan enacted.  Where possible, if the employees feel well enough, alternative work arrangements can be discussed around working from home. Check out the ‘Isolation guidance’ information sheets for more information.

 

Create a COVID-19 response plan

Now it’s time to start creating a contingency plan! Trying to approach this on the run is only going to lead to mistakes and steps being missed. Having a plan in place, ready to be actioned is vital, and is an important preventative measure.

Outline how your organisation will address COVID-19 incidents as they arise, including self-isolation, remote work, cleaning and hygienic procedures, communication and the response to someone who contracts COVID-19.  This plan needs to address:

Action steps to respond COVID-19

  • Have a communication plan ready to implement 
  • Have a cleaning protocol drawn up that includes instructions and products
  • Check COVID-19 updates from government sources – this should be completed daily. The Department of Health provides regularly updated information
  • These action steps should also include preparation for short and long term impacts of COVID-19

Keeping your team safe

Communication is imperative at this time – make sure team members feel comfortable asking questions and know where to find resources. Take all staff through important elements of the contingency plan, including;

  • What to do if they start to display symptoms or are in a high risk category
  • What options are available for those that want to self-isolate
  • The cleaning protocols being introduced to help protect the team

Organisational position on self-isolation

It’s important to understand the limits of your business, and know when you may need to encourage your employees to go into isolation. Different scenarios could include: 

  • People who have tested positive or are waiting on test results 
  • People who have been in close contact with someone who has
  • People who wish to self-isolate as a precautionary method

 

What to do when a team member advises they have contracted COVID-19

When a team member advises you that they are self-isolating or have tested positive to COVID-19, there are several steps you should take, including:

  • Determine when they were last in the office and disinfect everything they came into contact with
  • Confirm who was in close contact with them at this time. These people will need to be informed at the earliest opportunity, while maintaining confidentiality
  • Ensure that the team member is self-isolating and has support during this trying time. Provide them with relevant documentation which may include sick leave policies and work delegation tasks.
  • It is also just as important to provide moral support and regular communication.  Enhancing morale and setting a precedent with culture and care is vital, both for the individual that has been diagnosed, and for the team that is observing.

 

Team Support

Ensure those who may have worked in close proximity to the individual understand the steps they need to take and make immediate action to seek advice from the National Coronavirus Hotline (1800 020 080). 

Keep open lines of communication with them, support them and be enmpath

 

Communication when working remotely

Regular contact is encouraged, and where possible, conduct face-to-face meetings via video meetings. This is an important step to help beat the challenges the social distancing and isolation may present to your team. There are a few things to consider when communicating with a remote workforce:

  • When addressing new policies, always provide the details in a written format that is readily accessible and ensure that team members have read and understood it
  • Regular stand up meetings hosted online will lines of communication open 
  • It’s a great idea to send out regular check-ins to encourage continuous employee feedback, especially during times of change.
  • Social interaction is critical, make time for non-business relation chat. People will be missing the banter and social aspects of their normal work environment and encouraging this will provide a sense of normality that may be missed. Where possible, even look at creating regular dates to get online group sessions to celebrate birthdays, have virtual lunch or coffee catch ups to keep the banter alive and well.

Look for fun and easy ways for your people to share their experiences. Encourage sending pictures of pets, home office setups or even checking to see what snacks people are eating.  It’s important during these times for managers to be proactive and provide solidarity with their team. Check out our infographic for more tips to create a successful remote workforce.

The Coronavirus can cause anxiety and stress. Businesses need to be creative and innovative to get through one of the most challenging times for an organisation operating today.

One of the most valuable things you can do is to be clear with your team and work with them to provide them with what they need. Being proactive and having a plan in place is one of the best ways to tackle the impact of Coronavirus. 

 

Editor’s note: This article is based on the coronavirus and COVID-19 situation as of March 19. It’s important to remember that the situation is rapidly developing and official advice may change.

 

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