Amid Growing Coronavirus Fears, Businesses Step Up

New survey shows increase in companies offering paid sick leave
Cleaning office surfaces

As concerns mount about the current coronavirus pandemic and its resulting illness COVID-19, a new survey suggests that employers are trying to be proactive about easing workers’ fears.

Businesses across the nation are grappling with ways to balance the need to protect their workforce from potential infection with the desire to keep operations running as efficiently as possible. Clutch, a business-to-business ratings website, surveyed 512 workers over March 13-16 to track those efforts, as well as worker’s perceptions of the health crisis.

At the time of the survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents — 88% — said they were concerned about COVID-19. This percentage marks a rise from a survey of workers taken from Feb. 29 to March 1, in which just under 63% of respondents said they were concerned about the respiratory illness.

Businesses take action

Many business owners have expressed confidence in their ability to handle the disruptions posed by the outbreak. But at the same time, the Clutch survey found, more and more businesses are making major changes in policy to protect their workers as the pandemic progresses.

The No. 1 step employers have taken is encouraging sick staff members to stay home, with 61% of employers having done so, according to the survey.

Some companies are also amending their sick leave policies. While the government has just passed a law to provide for paid sick leave, the legislation doesn’t cover all workers. But according to the Clutch survey, 13% of respondents said their employers have expanded their sick leave policies on their own due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Another step more than half (52%) of employers are taking is to improve office hygiene and cleanliness for those who do have to come to work. They are doing this in a variety of ways including:

  • Cleaning the office more frequently
  • Offering workers hand sanitizer
  • Providing disinfectant wipes to workers
  • Posting instructions on washing hands

Companies practicing social distancing

Businesses are likewise taking steps to practice social distancing, which keeps people apart so there is less risk of sick employees transmitting the coronavirus to healthy ones.

More than a third of employers (36%) have cut down on the company’s business travel in an attempt to help curtail the spread of the virus. At the same time, more than a quarter of employers (26%) have asked their workers to work from home.

As the pandemic continues to evolve, the nation’s businesses will likely continue to make changes to address the safety of their workforce. Make sure you are vigilant about keeping up with company announcements that could impact your safety. If you are unsure about company policies or you have concerns, you may want to address them with a manager or your human resources department.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.