Editor’s Note: We will update this article as more information and resources become available.
As the United States treats the coronavirus threat with increasing seriousness, news of business and school closures, quarantines, cancellations or outright bans of large gatherings and more is spreading rapidly.
We’ve rounded up suggestions from government bodies, links to localized resources and a few other tips for keeping your workplace safe and your business running — particularly as working remotely becomes increasingly necessary.
Federal Recommendations for Employers:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has compiled a list of recommendations for employers as coronavirus precautions increasingly disrupt everyday life.
First and foremost, the CDC urges employers to tell sick workers to stay home, and to separate workers exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus from the rest of their workforce, should they show up. Business owners should also confer with contractors, freelancers and partners with whom they come in direct contact.
On a related note, it may be worth contacting your lawyer to review contracts in detail, to establish both your rights and your obligations in light of what has now officially been deemed a global pandemic.
If work must be performed in person, all communal office or co-working spaces should be cleaned regularly, and employees should be encouraged to both wash their hands frequently and make liberal use of hand sanitizers.
Lastly, any plans of action adopted by employers should have flexibility built in — especially as information regarding the spread and scope of the coronavirus is still incoming, and state and local governments enact increasingly strict policies for businesses to discourage people leaving their homes.
In addition, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has pulled together a number of programs and recommendations to assist employers. Included among them are a disaster loan program, an interim guidance cheat sheet, exporting and contracting support, and more.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also assembled a coronavirus response toolkit for concerned entrepreneurs.
The SBA also has district offices and partnerships with SCORE offices, Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers. For more, visit their local assistance directory.
And, be sure to check with your state, city or municipality websites for information and updates on locally available resources. (For example, in New York City where The Story Exchange is based, residents can text “COVID” to 692692 to subscribe for text message updates.) Below is a list of links to coronavirus updates in some of the largest cities and metro areas in the country:
New York City
Portland, Ore. (Multnomah County)
Seattle (King County)
Other Tips and Tricks for Working Remotely:
Conduct virtual meetings between employees working from their homes. There are a number of programs and platforms entrepreneurs can make use of, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts, or free conference call services like FreeConferenceCall.com and UberConference.
Get dressed for the day, start and end work at the usual times, follow your usual in-office schedule as much as possible and perform tasks in a designated work space. The more structure you can lend to your day, the more efficient you’ll likely be.
Don’t stay at that work space all day, though. Whether you’re working in an office or from home, you need to take breaks. Take advantage of the opportunity to walk around your neighborhood — though, avoiding high-traffic gathering spots like coffee shops would be wisest right now — or to meditate in your own home.
Make (work) plans! To-do lists are great for keeping yourself on-task during the course of your at-home work day. Figure out what you want to get done in a given day, then map out how and when those work tasks will get completed.
Stay connected to customers. Make use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media sites, as well as newsletters and your website’s homepage, to communicate your business’ status, potential shipping issues (if you’re an e-commerce business) and more to consumers and fans.
Stay connected to others — for yourself. Long-term isolation can take a significant toll on one’s well-being. For example, women’s professional network Ellevate pulled together some online resources for how to connect with other businesswomen. Take advantage of that and other such opportunities to connect digitally. Churches, local interest organizations and more are finding creative ways to use tech and social media to keep members in touch with one another.