Tips for Successful Telecommuting During Outbreak

telecommute

As the coronavirus spread ramps up and more people are being asked to self-isolate, many employers are scrambling to put systems in place to allow their employees to telecommute.

Many companies are not set up for telecommuting arrangements, and they have legitimate concerns about productivity, communications ― and even the possibility of workers’ comp claims stemming from home hazards that may not be typical in the workplace.

But there are steps you can take to make sure that you keep your employees engaged and on task.

1. Make sure they have the right technology

If you don’t already have one, you may want to consider setting up a company VPN so your employees can access their company e-mail and databases. Any employee working from home should also be provided with a company laptop and make sure that they have an internet connection that is fast enough to handle their workload.

Also provide an infrastructure for them to be able to work together on files. If they are not sensitive company documents, they can use Dropbox or Google Documents.

These services allow multiple editors to view and update documents simultaneously, from remote locations. This ability to check up on your employees’ work helps keep them honest. Plus, a centralized online location for shared work files minimizes the likelihood that important files will be accidentally lost or deleted.

2. Provide clear instructions

It’s extremely important that you provide clear instructions to remote workers. Some people do not perform well without direct oversight and human interaction. Without that factor, you will need to spell out your expectations and the parameters of the project they are working on in detail.

Make it clear that if they are confused or unsure about any part of the work, they should contact a supervisor for clarification. If you can eliminate misunderstandings, then your workers can be more efficient.

3. Schedule regular check-ins

To hold your employees accountable for being on the clock, schedule calls or virtual meetings at regular intervals. Even regular instant messaging works. Use these meetings to allow them to update their superiors on their work. This also helps with productivity, since there are consequences for failing to meet expectations and showing up to the meeting empty-handed.

Their supervisors should be working when they are, so they can be in regular communication. If your employees know when their supervisors are working, and vice versa, then you also create a collaborative environment where they can ask and answer questions and provide input.

4. Keep employees engaged, feeling part of the team

One of the hardest parts of working from home is the feelings of isolation and detachment from colleagues. It’s important that you build in interactive time for your workers.

One way to do that is by using a chat program like Slack, Hangouts or WhatsApp (which has a group chat function). For remote workers, these programs are a blessing because they make it easy to keep in touch with their colleagues in and out of the office ― and they level the playing field, so to speak, by making distance a non-issue.

You can also encourage your staff to collaborate and use Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts to video chat. Using video services creates a distinctly more intimate and real-feeling work environment for both parties.

5. Cyber protection

With more employees working from home, you also increase your cyber risk exposure, especially if they are using a company computer that is tapped into your firm’s database or cloud.

You should impress upon your employees the need to follow cyber protection best practices, such as:

  • Not clicking on suspicious links in e-mails from unknown senders.
  • Making sure that their systems have the latest security updates and patches.
  • Backing up their data daily.
  • Training them on phishing, ransomware and malware scams, especially new ones that try to take advantage of people’s fears about COVID-19.

The takeaway

If you’ve not had staff telecommuting in the past or are asking many employees who never have worked in that way to telecommute, there will be some growing pains as you work out the kinks.

But if you follow the above tips, it will make the transition easier and less painful for your workers, their managers and the organization as a whole.

Coronavirus Could Trigger Multiple Insurance Policies

coronavirus mask

COVID-19 is forcing businesses to face a number of risks, liability and insurance implications.

Companies could seek coverage for a variety of claims stemming from the outbreak, including workers’ compensation, business interruption, liability and more.

And, now that it is a pandemic, the economic fallout may be expansive — hitting your company’s operations in the form of lower sales or supply chain disruptions.

Now is a good time to understand which of your insurance policies could come into play.

Workers’ compensation

Workers’ compensation policies generally extend insurance benefits to employees for injuries and illnesses “arising out of or in the course of employment.”

That wording makes it difficult for most workers to file a claim if they suspect that they got the coronavirus at work, presumably from another employee, customer or visitor to the workplace. But if an employer knows that the virus is in the workplace, coverage could apply.

Workers’ compensation could come into play in the following instances:

  • Health care personnel who work where there are patients being treated and tested for COVID-19 would have a strong claim if they contracted the virus.
  • Employees who travel overseas for business and contract the illness.
  • Employees who are exposed to the illness at work by an infected co-worker.
  • Employees who are assigned to work in a location with infected parties.

However, workers’ comp insurance would likely not cover employees who are working on assignments abroad for more than a short time.

Business interruption

One major fallout from the spread of COVID-19 is that it has cut into global supply chains, forcing manufacturers around the world to suspend production. This has been especially true for companies that rely on China for their parts and materials.

But now that the virus has exploded in a number of countries, the threat to supply chains will only increase. This has already started affecting companies in the United States. If your company’s operations are affected or stopped due to the virus, you may be wondering if the business interruption coverage in your property policy or business owner policy may payout.

Business interruption coverage replaces income that was lost due to a disaster, such as a fire on the premises of the company or one of its suppliers, or a hurricane that hinders a company from operating.

However, any hit to your income from coronavirus would not be physical damage, which is a prerequisite for this coverage. Viruses and disease are typically not an insured peril unless added by endorsement. In many cases, the policy may specifically exclude coverage for viruses and diseases.

There is potential coverage through communicable disease coverage under proprietary insurance carrier forms if the insured is closed by a “public health authority” order for closure, decontamination, etc. But it’s worth noting that these usually require the order to happen, so the insured cannot voluntarily decide to close and then claim coverage.

General liability

In terms of liability, a third party — customer, vendor or guest — could claim they were sickened on your property and sue your business for negligence for failing to provide a clean facility, which could trigger your commercial general liability policy.

Any company that deals with the public or customers, like a retailer, restaurant, hotel, daycare center or gym, would be at greatest risk for this type of action.

While the chances of them winning such a case would be small, you could still face legal bills, which your CGL policy would typically cover. If there is coverage, it would come under the policy’s “bodily injury” portion.

Some CGL policies exclude claims arising from a pandemic, virus or bacteria, so read your policy carefully. Many insurers also include broadly worded pollution exclusions that could preclude or limit coverage.

Business travel accident insurance

This insurance could cover employees who travel on business domestically or internationally, foreign employees of U.S.-based businesses and U.S. employees on offshore assignments. The insurance provides:

  • Traditional accidental death & dismemberment coverage.
  • Emergency evacuation, repatriation, and out-of-country medical benefits that cover costs for the treatment and transportation of sick or injured employees.
  • Optional coverage for unexpected medical expenses.

Train Your Workers in COVID-19 Prevention

coronavirus covid-19

As the COVID-19 virus spreads across the world and the number of cases growing in the U.S., there is a lot of hysteria and misinformation about how to protect yourself from this new virus strain.

More and more people are wearing surgical masks when they go outside, thinking it will protect them, and some people have stopped drinking Corona beer because the virus is a coronavirus. This has left plenty of people not sure what they can do to avoid catching it themselves. There are also obvious concerns about workplaces as the virus spreads some employees may be afraid to come to work.

You should consider talking to your staff about how to protect themselves and consider holding a meeting to go over the main points they should follow. To help, we’ve compiled best practices information from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to provide you with unfiltered advice so you can protect yourself and your family:

What should I do to protect myself and others?

The most common way for this disease to spread is from a person touching a surface that has been infected through a sneeze or cough from a carrier. And then the person touches their eye, nose or mouth. That’s all it takes.

  • Be mindful of what you touch all day. If you press elevator or ATM buttons, use a knuckle instead of a fingertip, while on escalators or stairs try to avoid touching the handrail.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and if you have touched something in public, do not touch your face at any time until you have a chance to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
  • When washing, wet your hands with clean water, lather soap on every surface, scrub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, and rinse before drying. Just how long is 20 seconds? Humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Clean “high-touch” surfaces (like doorknobs and counters) in your home every day with a solution or half rubbing alcohol and half water.
  • Clean your mobile phone daily. Most people are touching their phones hundreds of times a day, making it ripe for harboring the coronavirus.
  • Stay away from people you know you are sick and stay away from someone who is coughing or sneezing near you.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • If you cough, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If none is available, sneeze into your arm or cover it with your hands. Wash your hands as soon as possible after a sneeze.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. 

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

Health experts recommend against using a mask. Most people have been using simple surgical masks which do nothing to protect the wearer from airborne viruses expelled through an infected person’s coughs and sneezes. These types of masks are more designed to keep the wearer from spreading whatever they have.

There is one type of mask that is more suitable for protection: The N95 mask, which is named so because it can filter out 95% of airborne particles, but even these are not foolproof and must often be fitted properly to provide the desired protection. The CDC does not recommend wearing an N95 mask if you have not been trained in how to wear it.

Stockpile stuff for your home

Experts suggest stocking at least a 30-day supply of any needed prescriptions, and you should consider doing the same for household items like food staples, laundry detergent, and diapers, if you have small children.

Remember, alcohol is a good disinfectant for coronaviruses so make sure to keep surfaces in your home clean.

What if you get sick?

The WHO recommends that if you feel sick, you should stay home. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance to let them know your symptoms and that you are coming. Follow the directions of your local health authority.