Tips for the Essential Employer in the COVID-19 Era
April 6, 2020

Are you a designated essential employer? If you are an essential employer consider these aspects to address business continuity and the emotional and physical health of your workforce.

Develop a Comprehensive Plan and Revisit Current Policies

  • If you don’t have an emergency business plan, take the time to create one now!
  • Include specific procedures and actions to be taken in emergency situations
  • What action should be taken if an essential employee falls ill with COVID-19?
  • What action should be taken if the employee’s family member is diagnosed with COVID-19?
  • Should an organizational closure be immediately necessary, what procedures would be followed?
  • Become familiar with your state’s laws around furloughs, layoffs, and benefits
  • Be vigilant about treating all employees consistently and fairly
  • Display the required Family First Coronavirus Response poster
  • Revisit current policies to ensure compliance with state and federal guidelines
  • Create or enhance a remote work plan

Engagement and Morale

  • Watch for signs of employee stress, anxiety, depression- enlist your EAP
  • Be supportive and alert and empathetic to changes in behavior
  • Prepare and be receptive to discussing employees’ concerns
  • Stay connected to your employees
  • Keep your employees informed and communicate regularly
  • Recognize and acknowledge employee contributions
  • Encourage and motivate co-workers to recognize each other’s contributions
  • Look for ways to boost morale or reduce stress
  • Interject some fun or lightheartedness into the workday
  • Consider a recognizing employees: a gift card for home grocery delivery, or restaurant take-out
  • Find ways to bring people together via social media platforms and video conferencing
  • Become familiar with special state and federal relief programs newly available to address employee concerns (caregiver options, payments due for mortgages, student loans, etc).

Office Settings

  • Reconfigure seating arrangements to ensure workers are at least 6′ away
  • Find unused space, or move an employee into an unused office temporarily
  • Recognize that office lunchtimes can be a challenge to maintain social distance
  • Consider implementing a rotating schedule to avoid larger groups simultaneously in the lunchroom
  • Prop doors to common areas and hallways open (reducing the need to open/close doors by hand)
  • Supply soap and antibacterial products in all common areas, not just at the sink
  • Hire a company or designate someone to regularly wipe down frequently used hard surfaces
  • Encourage employees to sanitize their own workstations daily – computer, phone, etc.
  • OSHA has created a Guidance to Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

Vehicles and Drivers

  • Develop a list of best-practices for daily vehicle hygiene, wiping down all hard surfaces
  • Take special measures if employees drive long distances or cross state lines
  • Create a letter for the vehicle glovebox indicating the employee is engaged as an essential worker
  • Become familiar with other states’ guidelines for work and travel
  • If delivering supplies or materials, ensure workers are following appropriate social distance guidelines

Recognize that Families Can Be at Risk, Too

  • Help identify procedures for when the employee returns home after the workday- good practices may include removing shoes at the door, putting clothes directly into the washer, and showering before interacting with other family members. Sanitize the lunch box, or cooler, the cell phone, the car keys and any other items brought into the house after leaving work.
  • Follow CDC guidelines should one member of the family become ill.

Don’t go it alone. Engage the help of an HR professional, your employee assistance plan, your employment law attorney, and business associations and other agencies.

Andy Thiede

Andy Thiede


With 25+ years of generalist HR experience, her skills also include benefits and compliance. Andy has advanced HR certification: SHRM-SCP.

1 Comment

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    Great tips, Andy. Thank you for sharing.

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