Open for business now? Consider these COVID winter business tips
- Indoor air quality impacts the spread of COVID. Learn how you can improve airflow inside your building.
- Plan for supply chain delays; determine how you can work around them.
- Manage (and encourage) your cleaning crew.
Winter is here, and that means COVID-19 outbreaks are likely to get worse, according to researchers. This makes it more important than ever for employers with employees working in offices and facilities to help reduce the spread of the virus. This can be challenging, though, as the winter months bring their own unique challenges during a pandemic.
According to nature.com, infections caused by many respiratory viruses, including influenza and some coronaviruses, swell in winter and drop in summer. Researchers say it’s too early in the COVID-19 pandemic to say whether SARS-CoV-2 will become a seasonal virus. But growing evidence suggests that a small seasonal effect will probably contribute to bigger outbreaks in winter, on the basis of what is known about how the virus spreads and how people behave in colder months.
So how can your organization help to push back against the virus during the winter months? Here are a few COVID winter business tips for your organization during the pandemic:
Pay attention to indoor air quality
As temperatures dip, everybody — including your employees — will spend more time indoors. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that the type of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system a business uses can help reduce the impact of potential airborne spread of COVID-19.1
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests you consider ways to improve your building’s ventilation in consultation with an HVAC professional, and based on local environmental conditions (temperature/humidity), as well as ongoing community transmission in the area.
Before implementing any new procedures, it’s critical to have a qualified HVAC professional ensure anything you’re putting in place because of COVID-19 won’t create additional issues. Also, anticipate that improving air filtration or allowing outdoor air to circulate in your building may likely result in higher costs during colder months.
Expect supply chain challenges
Winter and COVID-19 may create a perfect storm for supply chain complications for businesses. Colder months historically have seen a spike in influenza cases, and some health experts, including Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, are anticipating increased numbers of COVID-19 cases, too.5 What’s more, weather events such as snowstorms, ice storms and extremely low temperatures not only impact supply chains but also affect a great number of regions throughout North America.
When the outbreak began, governmental lockdowns around the world adversely impacted the global supply chain, says Chris Snider, Head of Risk Services for Zurich Canada. Snider’s coronavirus-focused supply chain tips include identifying your inventory needs and vendors, and scouting alternative procurement options. Also, keep track of where accelerated COVID-19 outbreaks are happening — not just where your businesses are located but also where suppliers are based.
Snider shares these tips to help prevent winter’s snowball effect on your supply chain:
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) inventory needs for outdoor workers may change in areas with harsher winter months. Depending on the operations, if work is performed outdoors (or partly outdoors), then ease of use of PPE with winter clothing and protection should be considered. Wearing winter face coverings (e.g., balaclavas) may not provide the same protection/prevention as a standard mask. Securing the proper PPE now will help prevent rushing to secure a supply later in the season.
- Colder weather will put more third-party vendors inside your facility. For companies that receive shipments, third-party drivers may require indoor space to wait while shipments are unloaded. To help protect these individuals, companies should reserve appropriate space and be able to provide basic PPE supplies, such as extra sanitizer and masks. This will require increased supplies as well as a review of logistics for the site, all of which can potentially have an impact on the end of the supply chain.
- Be ready for the added impact of lockdowns. An acceleration of coronavirus cases could create additional city, state/provincial lockdowns, which can adversely impact supply lines and essential workers delivering/processing supplies. Having alternatives ready can help reduce longer loss periods.
- Ensure you have back-up staff involved with managing and understanding the company logistics, procurement, and risk management of the supply chain. Employees are a critical part of ensuring a supply chain is protected and key to invoking alternatives as needed. If they are compromised by COVID-19 and unavailable, having a back-up can replace the gap and help ensure minimal interruption to the supply chain.
- Winter’s effect on transportation. Generally, in winter months, transportation is slower and more susceptible to longer delays due to weather. In addition, conditions can have a larger impact (for example, a traffic accident involving a transport truck or derailment of a train carrying your supplies). Having alternative transport methods at your disposal can help combat these uncertainties. In addition, allowing for longer lead times due to adverse weather in the winter will be prudent and can give your transportation channels the extra time to travel safely.
Related: COVID resilience tips for employees
Beware pandemic-fatigue among your cleaning staff.
Although some habits implemented at the beginning of the outbreak have become second nature to members of your cleaning crew, whether they’re in-house or third-party vendors, it’s also easy for lax behaviors to creep in.
Attention to cleaning and disinfecting with EPA-approved products in the winter months is as important as ever. Some ways to keep crews motivated and mindful:
- Communicate regularly and often. In addition to reinforcing the importance of your cleaning and disinfecting protocol, be sure to listen to staff concerns as well.
- Ensure you have ample supplies of PPE for your cleaning crews and emphasize the importance of wearing the necessary gear.
- Remember to thank these workers, who have been on the frontlines since the outbreak began, for their contributions. A recent article in “Health Affairs” aptly referred to them as the “silent superheroes.”