Collaboration is crucial to a fulfilling and productive workplace—but when employees are working side by side in an open office plan, or meeting regularly in conference rooms, that means if one person is sick, this can spread quickly to their coworkers. In one study using a harmless virus, researchers found that 40 to 60 percent of office surfaces were contaminated within the space of 2 to 4 hours.
That’s a problem during flu season, but even more critical as we face the spread of COVID19, a newly identified coronavirus that’s already infected at least 90,000 people worldwide, with likely many more cases that haven’t yet been reported. The disease can be deadly, particularly to older people or individuals with immunodeficiencies.
So how can you keep your team safe from this harmful virus without hurting office productivity? Try following these strategies:
1. Urge caution among employees
The most important step to take is making sure that employees don’t come to work sick, whether or not they’ve been officially diagnosed with COVID19. If an employee is coughing or doesn’t feel well, ask them to check their temperature and remain home if it’s elevated to 100.4 degrees or higher, the CDC recommends. If the fever persists, they should seek medical attention and diagnosis.
2. Make in-office hygiene a top priority
For those employees who are working at the office, make sure that proper hygiene is practiced to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Encourage frequent hand washing, provide hand sanitizer throughout the workplace, and encourage employees to regularly their desks and tables with disinfecting wipes.
3. Encourage your team to work from home whenever possible
If your company consists primarily of knowledge workers, it should be possible to allow most or all of them to work from home with a minimum of disruption to the workplace. Currently, 69% of U.S. workplaces already have flexible work policies, so it may not be too difficult to make the transition—but if it’s not part of your existing model, this provides a good opportunity to make the shift. Willis Towers Watson has surveyed 158 global employers, and found that nearly 60 percent had already or planned to increase employees’ flexibility for remote work.
To build an effective work from home environment, it’s important to make sure that you have the right communication tools and processes in place to allow them to collaborate well. This includes:
- A secure, real-time chat tool that enables employees to participate in group discussions and private conversations, and to search through archives to find relevant information
- A project management dashboard that enables employees to set up, visualize, and check off tasks and milestones within their projects
- A video conferencing solution that allows team members to share live video and screen presentations with their colleagues across multiple locations. Currently, 37% of workplaces already have such a tool, but 62% didn’t think their employers’ current solutions were adequate
- A secure, cloud-based file sharing and storage solution that includes encryption
- Shared access to work collaboration tools including word processing, calendars, presentation tools, and spreadsheets
- A “softphone,” or software-based phone interface, which allows employees to make free or cheap VoIP calls to coworkers, clients, and other business partners directly from their desktop computers
Additionally, make sure that your employees are equipped with high-speed wireless Internet service that will allow them to download and upload files quickly, communicate over VoIP, and stream video content with no buffering. Your company may be able to help subsidize or cover the cost of this service to the extent that it’s used for work.
If you don’t have the infrastructure in place yet to help your employees work remotely successfully, not to worry—Tekscape can help. Get in touch with us to learn more about building a telework plan that helps your employees stay healthy, productive, and connected.