Navigating COVID-19 in the Workplace: An Update
Further to our post yesterday which summarized the key points to help support your organization in doing what it can to protect employees/operations, as you likely know, there have been important developments since then. Especially as we are moving into Spring Break and a busy travel time for many, the following updates are crucial to be aware of.
Travel Outside of Canada – Impact on the Workplace
While not (perhaps yet) an outright ban, both BC’s Health Minister and Justin Trudeau have strongly advised against non-essential travel outside of Canada, including to the US; anyone who chooses to do so should self-isolate for 14 days upon return. This would include anyone currently in the US, upon their return. We suspect that some individuals may continue to travel and some will not self-isolate (either because they need to work, can’t work from home and/or don’t see the risk). It has, however, become a collective responsibility to ensure that we help prevent the spread of this virus – particularly to those who are vulnerable. Further, Trudeau announced that financial support will be addressed.
For that reason, workplaces are recommended to not allow travelling employees to return to work until they’ve been in quarantine for two weeks upon return – and support them during that time however possible. Accordingly, while some employers may be providing paid leave coverage for employees who are experiencing symptoms (and those who may have been exposed), as a further preventative measure, they may want to consider communicating alternative measures (e.g. they would need to apply for EI) for those who willingly choose to proceed with non-essential travel from this point going forward (particularly in an area with travel advisories).
For further details, refer to yesterday’s post, as well as below for details on working from home.
Ban on Large Gatherings
While travel outside of Canada is currently an advisory, in BC, Alberta and Ontario, there is an actual ban on large gatherings (i.e. those with more than 250 people). We expect this will be the case across Canada soon. Organizations should cancel any such events and seek alternative options (e.g. webcasts) to carry them out, if needed. Sadly, it’s also time to drop the handshakes and hugs for a while.
Working from Home
While many organizations have been moving towards remote work where possible, this time will be unprecedented globally in terms of doing so. For those organizations where this is even possible, while many are prepared, many more aren’t. Last year around this time, we provided some high-level guidelines on working remotely, in which we discuss agreements, staying connected and technology. As these are unique circumstances, in order to keep your operations running, we also recommend the following:
- Require employees to still work regular hours and be available via phone, email, text or other tools, as applicable for your workplace
- Given the circumstances, not working at the office should mean working from home whenever possible; i.e. hundreds of people flocking to shared spaces in coffee shops and other public zones will defeat the purpose
- While the world over, we will all know that many of us are working from home, this should not be an excuse to drop the professionalism. Yes, even now. This means still “arriving at work” in the same manner as if you were going into the workplace (i.e. no pajamas). It also means communicating with clients and co-workers as if you’re still in the workplace (e.g. not saying I didn’t want to do video because I’m still in my PJs, or I didn’t do my hair, etc.)
- Perhaps most importantly at this time – not only for the productivity/wellness of your business and team, but also for those who live alone and may rely upon the workplace to connect socially – find ways to connect on a regular basis through technology (e.g. Zoom, Google Hangout, Teams, etc.)
As this is a day-by-day moving target, we expect things will continue to evolve and we will do what we can to keep you updated.