As coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, many manufacturers are beginning to question how it will affect their businesses moving forward and some have started asking non-essential employees to work from home in an attempt to limit the spread of the new disease. But is that enough?

In this article, we’ll look at five best practices you should consider implementing today to keep your employees safe and how to leverage online learning to make sure they are ready to come back.

Get the tools you need

For a lot of manufacturers, the coronavirus is the first time they’ve had to consider having their staff work from home. It’s not easy managing a team of remote workers. But the good news is that there are many tools available to help you keep everyone in your organization on the same page, no matter their location.

A great place to start is by looking through this handy list. It contains over 90 software tools across the following categories:

  • Text communication
  • Video & Audio communication
  • Screen sharing
  • Calendar management
  • Scheduling
  • Timezone
  • Time tracking
  • Task management
  • Team reporting
  • Project management
  • File management
  • Collaborative writing and sketching
  • Product management
  • Security
  • Employment
  • Freelancers & short term

If it’s your first time managing a remote team, remember that communication is more important than ever now. Consider having a daily check-in so you can provide your team with the resources they need and get their feedback. Tools like Zoom conference, Google Hangouts, and Slack are all excellent options for doing this.

Know the facts

In times of uncertainty, knowing the facts is also key to stopping the spread of rumors and fear. Everyone’s talking about COVID-19, but here’s what the experts want you to know:

  • The virus can cause mild, flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle pain, and tiredness. (Source: ECDC
  • More severe cases develop severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, and septic shock that can lead to death. (Source: ECDC
  • Coronavirus can survive on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours and cardboard for up to 24 hours. (Source: medRxiv)
  • The best ways to protect yourself from this coronavirus (and other viruses) include: 
    • Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, using soap and hot water.
    • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick, sneezing, or coughing. (Source: John Hopkins Medicine)
  • There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. (Source: CDC)

Both coronavirus and the flu are respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms. But unlike the flu, the COVID-19 may present with slower onset of illness, mild headache and body ache, and mild/absent fever.

In fact, people may be able to infect others without showing any symptoms. They may also test positive by throat swabs for days and even weeks after their illness. That’s why proactive action is important in reducing the spread of COVID-19

Create a disease preparedness plan 

Updating your disease preparedness plan should be the first step you take towards containing an outbreak in your manufacturing facility. 

Be sure to review guidance from your federal and state health agencies and add them to your workplace-specific contingency plans. 

Your plan should cover situations that may arise as a result of an outbreak, such as:

  • Increased rates of worker absenteeism.
  • The need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, operations downsizing, and other exposure-reducing precautions.
  • Options for performing critical operations with a reduced workforce
  • Interruptions to supply chains or delayed deliveries.

Your preparedness plan should also address the level of risk associated with various job tasks that your manufacturing staff performs daily. 

Additionally, you might want to consider the individual risk factors among your existing workforce (e.g., workers who are older or who have an underlying medical condition) as well as the controls necessary to address those risks.

Consider offering flexible work options

We’ve already seen how tech companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon have responded to the coronavirus outbreak by implementing remote working policies for many or all of their employees around the globe. 

The reality for many manufacturers, however, is that it’s not possible to have all workers work from home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to make your work environments more flexible. During this time, you should:

  • Actively encourage non-essential and sick employees to stay home.  
  • Update your sick leave policies, so they are flexible and consistent with public health guidance. Make sure that employees are aware of these policies.
  • Talk with partners and businesses who provide staffing solutions to your company about the importance of sick employees staying home. Encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
  • Do not require a doctor’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation promptly.

It’s also important to create flexible policies that allow your employees to stay home to care for sick family members who may be affected by COVID-19. You should be prepared to get more requests than usual from employees who may need to stay at home to care for the sick.

Train your manufacturing staff

Keeping the lines running will inevitably put additional stress on staff, and time away from training will only lead to skill loss and pressures on productivity

Traditional training methods such as in-class training and workshops may also need to be postponed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and many schools and training centers have started to look for solutions to shift training online. 

Have you considered online training and simulation training to keep your manufacturing staff up to date on best practices when they return to work?

Here at Simutech Multimedia, we understand the impact that the coronavirus may be having on your business. We’re committed to helping you as you make the transition to a different way of learning, where your teams can train from anywhere, even from home using simulation based training.

Book a free demo today to learn more about how our simulation training platform can help you train your staff safely.

Get started with your demo

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