When you lead your business through a pandemic, you have a number of new responsibilities to juggle. You need to manage your employees working remotely, revisit your business plan, and take care of your own family’s needs. In the middle of these unusual responsibilities, you need to know what you will do in the event that one of your employees should notify you that they have tested positive for the disease ravaging the country.
Having an employee test positive can be a complex challenge to face. It calls for sensitivity, but also requires that you move quickly as a manager. In other words, you need both emotional intelligence and decisive managerial instinct. Whether your employees work remotely or come in to work, what follows are tips on the steps that you can take to handle such a situation.
To begin, remember to be sympathetic
It’s important to get your response right when your employee first calls to you to tell you about the fact that they now have the infection. While their symptoms may only be mild in the beginning, they are likely to be highly stressed about where their health might be headed, and whether they may have given the infection to friends, coworkers, and family members. You need to communicate in clear language that you and the team are there for them, and they can count on you. They need to hear that it’s okay if they need to stop working for a while to take care of their health.
Do what you can to arrest the spread of the disease
Once you get off the phone with the employee, you need to talk to HR (human resources) to see what can be done to keep the disease from spreading to other members of your workforce. HR should have a protocol in place that you can make use of. At the very least, you need to ask the affected employee to make a list of the coworkers they have been within six feet of over the past couple of weeks.
They probably won’t have infected anyone if they worked from home. If they did meet other workers in person, however, you should contact those other employees, tell them that they could be infected, and ask them to quarantine themselves. Throughout these conversations, you need to maintain confidentiality about the employee’s identity. You should also ask the employees you talk to about whether they need help with anything, and tell them that you and the company are there for them.
While a quick phone conversation can help alert those necessary, you’ll need to use email if you have people who aren’t reachable over the phone. Meanwhile, if your employees begin to become anxious about the possibility of being infected, they may ask you for reassurance that they will be okay. You need to remind them that you’re not a doctor, direct them to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and assure them that the company is always supportive.
In general, people tend to not retain information well when they are stressed out. Your employees are unlikely to fully remember all the details that you bring up over the phone talking about the possibility of infection. It can help to repeat the information in a thorough follow-up email that you send out to each person on your calling list.
Demonstrate care and support
It would be a good idea for the CEO to personally call the employee who is sick, and the people who are at risk from having been in close contact with the employee, just to show them that the company is looking out for them.
In the event that the number of positive cases at your company should begin to rise, and it isn’t practical for the CEO to call each infected person, they can delegate authority to a manager lower down to make those calls for them.
A pandemic can be a challenging time for anyone, but it is a critical part of the job for business leaders and other managers to extend support to their employees, reassure them, and help keep their spirits and morale up. An employee who tests positive needs the company to respond quickly, and sensitively. Such a response is likely to help make everyone at the company feel more secure, and place them in a better position to focus on work, in the knowledge that they are well taken care of.