With the COVID-19 virus spreading across the world, I wanted to offer some insights that can help keep your team healthy (both physically and mentally). This isn’t anything profound but hopefully you'll find something you hadn’t thought of.
These are my three C’s: Clean, Communicate, and Care.
When the impact of COVID-19 on my operation became clear, we initiated an overall cleaning of our maintenance areas using methods approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Following the initial cleaning, we introduced a daily schedule to clean all high traffic areas at each shift change (e.g. door handles, vehicle keys, timeclocks, fingerprint readers, breakrooms, computers, tool cribs, etc.). For trades workers who maintain areas throughout our facilities, we advocate cleaning the areas they are working in prior to beginning maintenance (e.g. electrical panels, HVAC controls, plumbing fixtures, light switches, etc.). Here are a few other things we are doing in terms of cleaning and social distancing:
- Call Centers employ social distancing by only using every other work station (minimum 6 feet apart)
- Staggered start times of snow removal shifts and having employees report to their vehicles instead of holding initial team meetings to discourage employee gatherings of more than 10 people
- To avoid touching hard surfaces, Customer Service areas take information verbally as opposed to having customers “sign in”
- Cleaning vehicle interiors (e.g. steering wheels, dashboards, shift levers, etc.) during pre/post trip inspections and prior to working on them
- Hand dryers in restrooms were disabled to reduce the spread of germs
The process of cleaning proactively has provided two huge benefits:
- We’re making a physically cleaner environment to promote a healthier workforce.
- We’ve noticed workforce morale improvements. This intense cleaning regime has improved the mental health of many employees by giving them something to do that “makes a difference.” It seems to counteract the “sit back and wait for something bad to happen” vibe and replaces it by bringing employees together with a common goal.
Stick to the facts and don’t speculate on what’s next. Be deliberate, steady, and confident. Everyone wants up-to-date information during times like these. When there’s a lack of information flowing, employees will come up with their own information — social media will see to that. A big part of my job these days is to walk around and talk to employees (from 6 feet away) and let them know what’s going on, what’s the plan, etc. Hearing a consistent message from everyone in their chain of command boosts our employees’ confidence and morale.
Identifying a change in behavior of your team members may be the most important thing right now. Some people act out, some will isolate themselves, but these are just signs that they need to express their thoughts/concerns instead of keeping them bottled up.
There’s a lot of conflicting information being reported in the media (depending what channel you watch or social media site you follow). It’s easy to get bogged down with information overload, and everyone processes this information differently. To keep your workforce focused on the task at hand, I recommend that you look your team members in the eyes every day and ask them: How are you doing? How is your family? When things are chaotic or uncertain, people want to know that their boss cares. Just be patient and listen to them — it will facilitate a healthier workforce in the end.
Stay safe, healthy, and vigilant!