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Addressing COVID-19 challenges in a small business

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As coronavirus pervades every aspect of life right now, it is a business imperative to support employees during this time when there are many unknowns. As small business owners know all too well, the challenges facing their business are very similar to those experienced by large organizations. However, they have to manage them with limited resources. This is no different for responding to COVID-19.

As the founder and CEO of a workplace wellness company that also is a small business, it was particularly important to proactively address the public health crisis for my own employees, because our clients turn to us for guidance on maintaining healthy workplaces during trying times.

My business has implemented a series of strategies to maintain a healthy work environment and reassure our employer clients. We recommend other small businesses follow suit.

Remote Work

Remote work is not an option for all companies but, if it is for yours, you should consider it. Before you make the recommendation, make sure employees have the infrastructure in place to be successful while working from home. For a small business, a good baseline infrastructure that enables a successful work from home experience includes reliable and fast technology.

At Wellable, we already have a flexible work policy, so employees were used to working from home occasionally. The big question for us and many other companies was whether or not to make it a requirement. When making this decision, it is important to consider specific factors related to your company. Questions to consider: Can employees work effectively from home? Is the spread of the virus strong in your area? How do people commute to work?

Because of the high concentration of cases that developed in Boston, where we’re based, we eventually required everyone to work from home since most of our employees use public transportation to get to work.

Communicate
Employees are likely experiencing information overload right now, and unfortunately, not all of the content is valid. The first priority needs to be safety. Direct employees to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization for timely and accurate updates on the current environment. Also, direct employees to local resources, since what is going in your geography may be quite different than another part of the world.

You should also communicate effective ways for employees to prevent contracting the virus or getting sick, which should include tips on proper hygiene and strengthening an immune system.

Transparency is imperative and you must indicate that you are taking the matter seriously. Recognize that new information is coming out every day, so be upfront about what you know and what you don’t know.

Emotional Health and Self Care

Companies can support employees’ emotional well-being by encouraging healthy ways to stay informed and identifying proper resources to consume. Managers can also work on being transparent and open about mental health so that employees feel comfortable discussing the topic at work.
Company leaders should also encourage employees to take care of themselves. Some self-care tips that are fairly easy to implement while working from home are taking breaks to walk around the house or outside, getting proper sleep and eating well. All these things help build a healthy immune system which, in turn, keeps employees healthy and more able to fight disease and be productive when working.

There is no one-size-fits-one solution on how a company, big or small, should respond to COVID-19. The two most important things to consider are: making sure your response is specific to the population you serve and putting your employees’ health and safety first.

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