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How Vancouver offices are managing coronavirus lockdowns

B.C. employees and employers should be prepared for shutdowns in their own workplaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic
working-from-home
B.C. employees and employers should be prepared for the risk of shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Working at home/Shutterstock

If pro sports leagues are suspending their seasons over COVID-19 concerns, B.C. employees and employers should be prepared for the risk of similar shutdowns in their own workplaces.

“Our phone’s been ringing in really, I’d say, the last 10 days around policy-building,” said Nicole Davidson, CEO of Vancouver-based Beacon HR.

Top concerns include whether to restrict visitors to the office or restrict travel for employees.

She recommends restricting it to essential travel only, with trips to China, Hong Kong, Iran Japan, Italy and South Korea put on ice for now.

Workers who do travel should be documenting where they stay and where they go in case of transmission.

Her other recommendations include:

  • Encouraging hand-washing
  • Coughing or sneezing into one’s own elbow, rather than one’s hand
  • Refraining from touching one’s face
  • Staying informed about the latest news but refrain from panicking
  • Preparing to stay in one’s home for up to 30 days by ensuring ample supply of household goods

Working from home has also been top of mind for employers, Davidson said.

“For the most part employees are feeling supported by their companies if they do need to work remotely,” she said.

“This is really going to accelerate any tools, systems, processes for any companies who aren’t already set up to have their team members work from home successfully and thrive in that remote environment,” Davidson.

Vancouver tech firm Later (Victory Square Media Inc.) previously had a policy allowing employees to work remotely once a week.

That changed at the end of January when the company, which specializes in marketing management for Instagram, removed any restrictions on remote working.

Jessica Hodgson, Later’s director of human resources, said around half the Vancouver employees have since taken the company up on that offer to work from home exclusively.

“We’re just now working through details of if and when we shut down the office completely and do mandatory work-from-home, which I think is of the very close horizon,” she said.

“If people have a laptop and a strong internet connection, they should be able to successfully do their jobs. There are some concerns around some big multi-team projects that we have.”

Later’s leadership team is now debating how to manage those particular projects if workers aren’t in the office.

And while the average age of Later’s workforce is 28, Hodgson said the company wants to isolate workers to ensure it’s not putting vulnerable populations at risk of contracting COVID-19.

“If we do decide to go mandatory work-from-home at some point in the near future, our response is a reflection of that greater societal risk,” said Hodgson, who began working from home March 9.

In the meantime, she said there will be some challenges in terms of getting quick answers from co-workers if they can’t pop by colleagues’ desks.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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