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Steve E. Bishop, M.D.

By: Steve E. Bishop, M.D. on August 31st, 2020

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5 Ways Your Business Should Prepare for a COVID-19 Fall

Executive Health | COVID-19

We’re now almost six months into the worst pandemic in a century. In some states and cities, cases continue to rise. Others remain steady and, at least for now, reasonably controlled. Many businesses have reopened in some form, whether that’s a restaurant welcoming diners back or a professional services company bringing some of its workforce back to the office. Other businesses continue to operate almost entirely remotely.

But no matter what your business operation looks like right now, COVID-19 has been a stressor for most of 2020. And whether your state is facing an uptick now or doing fairly well, the outlook for this fall remains something all businesses should prepare for.

Respiratory illnesses commonly return as the heat of the summer gives way to the cooler temperatures of fall. That’s why flu season starts up in earnest as the cooler fall air moves in. And as a respiratory illness itself, COVID-19 is not expected to behave differently. No matter the current situation, as the calendar turns to late September and into October, we are expecting another wave of viral spread coinciding with the usual flu season.

As a leading concierge medicine practice, we’ve seen this virus from multiple angles. Our primary care doctors have tested and treated COVID-19 patients and helped others manage the stress of the pandemic. And as an executive health provider, our physicians have consulted for many businesses during COVID-19, offering clinically-based, actionable advice to businesses as they attempt to keep their employees and customers safe and their company afloat.

So, as the fall approaches, what should your business be doing? Here are 5 ways your business should prepare for a COVID-19 fall. 

1. Double-down on following the established guidelines. 

We’ve all heard the guidelines by now. Wear a mask. Stay at least six feet apart. Wash your hands as much as possible. Avoid large crowds.

Back in the spring, implementing these guidelines in the workplace required creating new habits. Now, months later, it’s about making sure those habits don’t fade. Make it a part of your company’s culture. Hammer it home, because the alternative is not worth it.

For employees working on-site, limit in-person interactions in common areas like break rooms and conference rooms. Provide hand sanitizer in convenient areas. Require masks, perhaps even when in their own workspaces.

For employees working remotely, it should be a similar message. This is what we all need to do to stay healthy. Remote employees are needed to continue your business operations, and they need to commit to following the same guidelines as those in the workplace to protect others and themselves.

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2. Require anyone working on-site to stay home at the first sign of symptoms. 

This is simple. It must be completely acceptable for employees to call out sick at the first sign of symptoms.

"Toughing it out" or claiming "it’s just a cold" should not be acceptable right now. Employees coming to work a little under the weather, but still coming in to do their jobs, has been pretty common in the past. A little scratch in the throat, a slight cough, or maybe feeling a little fever might not have been enough to call out sick in the past, but it most certainly is now.

The risk of “toughing it out” only to learn that little scratch in the throat was active COVID-19 virus is not worth it, for any company or any employee. From what we know about the virus, showing symptoms probably means you’ve asymptomatically had the virus for days already, so it may already be too late.

As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take this time now to educate your employees that it’s perfectly ok to not come into the office if they feel any semblance of a symptom.

3. Use this time to plan and prepare.

While the virus is actively spreading in several areas of the country, it is fairly contained in others. If you’re in one of those “fairly contained” areas, you have several weeks to prepare for a potential spike in the fall.

A widespread spike could lead to more shutdowns, or at the least, some sort of reversal in the phases of your individual state or region. This will affect your employees, both those that have always come into the workplace, those that just recently starting to come back to the workplace, and those who have remained at home.

Outside of your business operations, schools may be completely virtual or in-person this fall. Your employees with children are going to have a lot going on. Think about what you can do to assist them so they can operate as best as humanly possible, as employees of your business and as parents to our next generation.

Use this time to plan for how you will manage those situations. Think about what you had to do on short notice back in March and April. Is there anything you would do differently? Is there anything you’d change? Do you need to refresh your supplies of hand sanitizer or masks? Do you need to adjust your cleaning protocols, whether that’s handled in-house or through a vendor?

You have a little bit of time now to plan compared to the spring, when it seemed like everything was happening suddenly and at once, and it’s important to use it wisely.

4. Encourage employees to do whatever they can to improve their health.

When it comes to COVID-19, social distancing guidelines help us prevent exposure to the virus. But we should also focus on what we can do to minimize our risk of a bad outcome if you do get exposed and contract COVID-19.

We call it maximizing your resilience. The stronger your immune system, the better chance it can fight off the virus once exposed. And your immune system is at its healthiest and strongest when you eat well, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and sleep better.

Make these actions a core goal for all your employees.

  • Encourage employees to take time out of their day to get exercise, whether that means taking a little bit longer lunch break to squeeze in a walk or by logging off for 30 minutes to go for a run.
  • Create a fun workplace competition promoting healthy meals, getting our daily steps in, and achieving the weight loss many have delayed until now.
  • Make sure your supervisors are in touch with their teams regularly, not just about their work tasks and projects, but about their mental health, their stress levels, and how they are feeling personally.

And finally, consider going to the next step and implementing an executive health program at your company. An executive health program gives your most critical employees access to top-notch concierge care from a personal doctor. They get care that focuses on improving their health for the long-term, so they operate at peak performance for as long as possible. These programs can be particularly helpful in managing your key person risk, which is a much more direct threat to your business during COVID-19.

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5. Get advice for running your business safely from someone you can trust.

We are dealing with a virus that was previously unknown to us, and therefore, we are learning more every day, every week, and every month. What your business needs to be doing to protect your employees, and what it should be doing to protect the company’s future, changes often. It will continue to change in the coming months.

And because we’re dealing with a novel virus, much of the most important information is communicated from scientists in medical jargon. When the news makes the attempt to reduce this complicated issue into layman’s terms, it’s easy for data to get lost in translation. And the news that’s reported might not be exactly what you need to know.

At a time like this, you need a business consultant who understands the science behind COVID-19.

  • Someone who can interpret the latest data so you have the most up-to-date information guiding your decisions.
  • Someone who can help ensure your policies are effective and help adjust them as needed.
  • And someone who can provide a snapshot of the current landscape as it relates to medical supplies your company might need.

Just like you would use a lawyer to interpret and advise on legal concerns, you need a doctor to interpret and advise on the latest medical information related to the coronavirus.

Getting Started with COVID-19 Business Consulting from a Physician

Because trusted advice is necessary to fully prepare for the fall, PartnerMD is offering businesses a free consultation with one of our physicians. You’ll get a one-hour virtual meeting (likely through Zoom) where our doctors will provide information on the current state of the pandemic and our advice for businesses, and answer any questions you have specific to your business.

The result? You get reliable, trusted medical advice in terms you understand, so you can make the best decisions possible for your employees and your business. Click below to learn more. Learn more about how we can help today.

Get help from a physician in figuring out your business's questions during COVID-19.