The past several months it’s all over the news. It started in Wuhan, China, but in the meantime, the panic about the coronavirus has also struck Europe. The Coronavirus reached the border of the Netherlands and it won’t take long before the virus reaches our country. This virus is different than the viruses we have had to deal with in the past. Villages have been closed in China and Northern Italy, people on cruise ships are quarantined and events are canceled.
Our motto: put hygiene on top of your list, stay calm, enjoy life, your family, take care of your team members and have a plan ready!
Five questions and answers about the virus for scale-ups and start-ups:
- What to do as a leadership team?
- How to prepare your business?
- Traveling or not? What to do with international gatherings/events/holidays?
- What to do with people who are in, or have recently visited (past 14 days), areas where COVID-19 is spreading?
- What are you legally obligated to?
1. What to do as a leadership team?
Communication is key! This virus is not just about the actual virus, but also about how it panics employees and fires up our fear. Not communicating just adds to the panic and fear. It fuels people’s insecurity as they make their own stories and might create the panic you don’t want in your organisation. As an employer, you have the obligation to create a safe and healthy work environment for your people. This means you have to assess the risks connected to the job and think about actions to prevent those risks.
- Explain where you are in the process and where your thoughts lead you.
- Centralize all the information for your team. Set up a small team or one ‘go-to-person’ who keeps everyone informed about the company's policy and actions related to COVID-19.
- How big is the chance that due to the economic consequences your revenue drops? Organise a scenario planning afternoon.
- Tell your teams that they can inform themselves on the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak. For the Netherlands, go to this website for the latest information: https://www.rivm.nl/coronavirus/covid-19/vragen-antwoorden
2. How to prepare your business?
- Make sure people can work remotely if possible. You can ask employees to bring their devices and chargers during traveling (even during holidays for when they are quarantined on a cruise ship... ;-)).
- You probably want to prevent your team members to enjoy their private holiday in a risk area. This is difficult because it is their private free time and these regions are changing. It’s the same as parachuting you can’t forbid your team members to jump out of that airplane. But you can always ask, and keep informing them about the risks and risk areas.
- Think about how you want to deal with long term absence due to Coronavirus.
- Before the virus hits your people: prepare a plan on what you communicate and how you want to deal with a shortage in capacity if one or more team members are caught with the Coronavirus.
- Reduce your labor costs when your company, for at least two weeks, is confronted with a 20% reduction of the workload. Apply for “werktijdverkorting” at the SVB: https://www.uitvoeringarbeidsvoorwaardenwetgeving.nl/mozard/!suite86.scherm0325?mVrg=176. When you have the permit, you can apply for the temporary unemployment benefit (WW-uitkering) at the UWV. https://www.uwv.nl/werkgevers/tijdelijk-minder-werk/detail/werktijdverkorting
3. Traveling or not? What to do with international gatherings/events/holidays?
You don’t want your company led by fear but you also don’t want to endanger your team members or network/clients. So make a good risk assessment before you make a decision. At this moment the decision is often made for you. Several events have been canceled due to the virus.
- In general, we think we shouldn’t panic too much and with hygiene precautions, we can and should continue our lives in areas where there is no outbreak.
- Make sure to follow the traveling advise off the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs https://www.nederlandwereldwijd.nl/reizen/reisadviezen
- Check your (company) travel insurance on the possibility for reimbursement in case of cancellation.
- As said before, hygiene is the only thing we really can do (see below repeated what is stated all over the internet on hygiene). So inform your staff when going to these gatherings to obey these guidelines.
4. What to do with people who are in, or have recently visited (past 14 days), areas where COVID-19 is spreading?
- Make sure the ‘go-to-person’ (see Question 1) knows who is going were & comes from where to make a judgment call on where a risk may arise.
- Ask your team member to stay at home when feeling unwell, even with mild symptoms such as a headache and a slight runny nose, until recovery.
- If your team is scared to be infected please inform them on the hygiene measures they can take into account and by keeping a distance.
- If remote working is easy, you could ask someone, even though they feel okay to stay home for a few days until you know for sure they are not infected.
- Avoiding contact with others and reduce visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19.
- When a team member develops a fever, a cough and/or difficulty breathing, advise them to contact their general practitioner (huisarts) promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Inform the company doctor. Your general practitioner will inform your team member about the further protocol.
5. What are your legally obligation?
- Team members aren’t allowed to stay at home out of fear for contamination. As an employer, you decide based on the risks and the safety of your team members if they can stay home or not.
- If you team member gets sick during his holiday, then the vacation days are converted into sick days.
- Team members aren’t allowed to stay at home out of fear of contamination. As an employer, you decide based on the risks and the safety of your team members if they can stay home or not.
- If your team member during traveling or holiday isn’t able to return due to the prevention measures in that country. The team member keeps his right to salary payment.
- When schools are closed team members need time to arrange daycare for their children. They are eligible to use paid calamities and short-term absence leave (calamiteiten en kort verzuimverlof). For more information visit the website of the central government (rijksoverheid). When they can’t find a solution and have to take care of their children they can make use of their vacation days of unpaid leave.
Summary - the most important approach for prevention reducing an outbreak is hygiene.
Below you will find a short summary that you can immediately activate in your company:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
- Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, go to your general practitioner (huisarts).
- Ventilate the office frequently.
- Healthy people with no respiratory symptoms, such as cough, do not need to wear a medical mask. WHO recommends the use of masks for people who have symptoms of COVID-19 (to prevent spreading the virus) and for those caring for individuals who have symptoms, such as cough and fever. For other people it doesn’t help much, it can even make it worse.
If you have other questions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also consult the website of the WHO and RIVM for the latest updates.