As the outbreak of coronavirus strain COVID-19 continues to develop, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has urged the public to avoid close contact and practice social distancing. Social distancing refers to the practice of limiting person-to-person interaction in order to prevent the spread of infection or disease. COVID-19 spreads mainly through the droplets produced by coughs and sneezes, which can travel up to six feet. Avoiding crowds and unnecessary interaction are some of the best ways to prevent spreading the virus, especially to those in high-risk categories.
With many individuals already practicing social distancing in their personal lives, businesses and employees are taking steps to apply the practice to their professional lives. For some, this means working from home. This can be an unprecedented process for certain businesses, and owners and employees both are sure to have plenty of questions moving forward. Your Better Business Bureau is here to help:
First and foremost, the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division states that employers are allowed to encourage or require telework as a measure for infection control strategy. If a business has employees that are unable to work from home, employers are encouraged to accommodate the office or business for social distancing, allowing as few people inside as possible.
This can be done by spreading desks apart or staggering shifts. You should also provide extra sanitation measures for those who will be staying.
Employers must pay employees working from home their same hourly rate or regular salary but are only required to pay them for hours actually worked. This applies both when working in office or at home.
To track hours worked, employers should consider establishing a system or mechanism for recording the hours during which an employee is on the clock. Discuss this system with employees so everyone is aware of the process and expectations regarding their timecards.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has no regulations regarding telework in home offices, and employers are not held liable for an employee’s home office. However, those employers that are required to track workplace-related illnesses and injuries should continue to keep records for illnesses and injuries in a home office.
If you have begun working from home, there are CDC-recommended measures you can take to keep your workspace clean and decrease your risk of getting sick.
Wash your hands – often. Using soap and warm water to wash your hands, for at least 20 seconds, is one of the most effective strategies against illness. Wash your hands before eating, after coughing or sneezing, and after you’ve been in a public place. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Utilize hand sanitizer when necessary. Soap and water is the best option for keeping for hands clean, but if that is not immediately available, use hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60%. Cover all the surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Know when to wear a face mask. Face masks should be worn if you are sick, to prevent the spread of germs through coughing and sneezing. If you are not sick, however, skip the masks and save them for those who need them and medical professionals.
Cover coughs and sneezes. Even if you do not feel sick, covering your coughs and sneezes can help cut down on the spread of illness. Some people can be sick without feeling symptoms or spread the virus to others without being ill themselves.
Clean and disinfect. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, keyboards, phones and more. You can use soap and water to clean a surface before disinfecting it. The CDC provides a guide to frequently-touched surfaces in the home and office, as well as best disinfecting practices.
As uncertain times continue to unfold, using sensible practices can keep us and those around us safe. Continue visiting CDC’s website for the latest updates, and visit BBB.org/coronavirus for more on marketplace issues during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Emily Gaines is the public relations coordinator with the Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas.