Staying in business during the coronavirus pandemic can be challenging. Here are five ways to help keep your employees healthy and your operations running.

While some businesses are shutting down during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many are remaining open. Staying operational in this new environment can be challenging, though. Companies face the real possibility of having many of their employees become suddenly ill or having their computer systems become incapacitated.

Here are five ways to help keep your employees healthy and your operations running during the coronavirus crisis:

Clean Frequently Touched Surfaces Often

COVID-19 is highly contagious. One way employees can get the virus is by touching a surface it is on and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. Thus, it is important for your business to regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched. While some surfaces are obvious targets for cleaning (bathroom and breakroom surfaces), others are not (e.g., printer LED displays, elevator buttons, door knobs).

Businesses in non-healthcare settings can use the cleaning agents they normally use to clean frequently touched surfaces, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, if an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 or is suspected of having it, more stringent cleaning procedures are necessary.

Besides making sure that frequently touched surfaces in your business’s common areas are cleaned regularly, you might also want to provide disposable wipes that employees can use to clean their desks, phones, computers, and peripherals (e.g., keyboard and mouse). With wipes readily available, employees will be more likely to keep their personal space and devices clean.

Provide Guidance on How to Keep Viruses at Bay

One of the best defenses against COVID-19 and other viruses is good hand hygiene. Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds kills the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). An alcohol-based hand sanitizer will also kill it, provided the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol. So, you should make sure the soap dispensers in your company are filled regularly. (It does not have to be anti-bacterial soap.) You might also want to place alcohol-based hand sanitizer in common areas where there are no faucets, such as reception areas and conference rooms.

Providing employees with guidance on how and when to wash their hands is just as important as providing the soap. Besides washing them for at least 20 seconds, there is a technique that people should use. The CDC recommends that companies instruct employees on when and how to wash their hands and put up posters to remind them to do so.

Provide Guidance on How to Keep Another Type of Virus at Bay

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not the only virus your company needs to worry about. The pandemic is prompting new cyberattacks. Hackers are playing on people’s fears about the health crisis to trick them into installing computer viruses. For example, in March 2020, hackers pretended to be WHO officials in phishing emails. The emails urged recipients to open an attached Microsoft Word document that contained information on coronavirus precautions. However, the file also included malicious code that led to an infection by a Windows virus named TrickBot.

Getting infected with a computer virus like TrickBot while trying to deal with the COVID-19 crisis could spell disaster for a company. Thus, you should warn employees about the influx of phishing emails and other types of cyberattacks tied to COVID-19. You should also provide training on how to avoid becoming a cybercrime victim (e.g., how to spot phishing emails, how to check for deceptive links in emails) if you have not already done so.

Hold Virtual Meetings Instead of In-Person Meetings

Virtual meetings have long been touted as a way to help companies save money and improve productivity. The coronavirus crisis has brought to light another important benefit of virtual meetings: They reduce employees’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 while enabling them to communicate and interact with customers, business associates (e.g., supplier reps), and other employees. To participate in virtual meetings, employees typically only need a computing device, web camera (webcam), Internet connection, and video-teleconferencing solution (e.g., Microsoft Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex Meetings).

Let Employees Telecommute to Work

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials and government leaders are recommending social distancing — a strategy used to slow down the spread of contagious diseases like COVID-19. A key concept in this strategy is keeping space between people — the more space, the better. This reduces the chance that people will come in contact with someone who is knowingly or unknowingly infected with the coronavirus. The latter is important to keep in mind. People who are infected with mild symptoms might still come to work, thinking that they just have a cold. In some cases, people have no symptoms. One study of 450 coronavirus patients in China found that more than 10% of them were infected by someone who had the coronavirus but were asymptomatic.

One way to practice social distancing is to have employees work from home if possible. Using public cloud-based business and productivity apps (e.g., Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite, Salesforce) can make the transition easier. However, you still need to set up systems to support those employees. For example, you need to provide a secure, reliable way for employees to connect to your business’s computer systems, especially if they are using their own personal computing devices. One possible solution is to use a remote-access virtual private network (VPN).

If working at home is not an option, employees should follow another social distancing practice: maintaining a distance of six feet from each other. To encourage this, you should make sure that employees’ desks and other work areas are six feet apart from each other. If spreading out is not possible, another option might be to implement flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to increase the physical distance between employees.

Change Is Not Easy — We’re Here If You Need Help

These are only some of measures that companies can take to maintain business continuity during the coronavirus crisis. There are others, such as cross-training employees on essential business operations and developing an infectious disease outbreak response plan.

After you decide which measures you want to take, we can develop the IT infrastructure needed to support those changes. For example, we can help you select and implement a virtual meeting solution or set up secure home offices.