In case you haven't been following the news, COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus, as many are still calling it) has been wreaking havoc on the stock market and instilling fear in countless Americans who are bracing for the possibility of localized outbreaks. So far, there's no vaccine available to stop the virus in its tracks, but health officials are offering some sound advice on how to prepare for it. Their top tips include practicing good hygiene and social distancing -- the simple and basic act of people staying away from other people.

As an employer, you can help with the latter by allowing employees to do their jobs from home instead of coming into the office. It's a move that's not only effective, but fairly easy and inexpensive to implement.

Man at laptop in kitchen drinking from a mug


Change your tune on working from home

Maybe the nature of your business is such that as a general policy, you prefer face-to-face collaboration, as opposed to having remote employees work together from afar. That's a fine policy to uphold when there isn't a major health crisis at play. But if COVID-19 continues to spread, it pays to have a contingency plan -- one that disrupts your business as little as possible. And allowing employees to work from home could be that plan.

By giving employees the option to do their jobs from home, you won't run the risk that those with questionable symptoms drag themselves into the office for fear of depleting their sick days or using up too much of their paid time off. Rather, those people will be more inclined to stay home, get rest, and impose a self-quarantine of sorts until they can be more certain they're in the clear. That's not only good for the rest of your employees' health; it's good for business. If fewer employees of yours get sick, you won't risk a drop in overall output.

Keep the lines of communication open

One reason so many employers don't like the idea of remote work is the fear that strained communication will result in less productivity. To combat that, come up with a plan that allows employees to work from home successfully. Invest in a chat app that lets workers communicate live, whether one-on-one or via team channels. Explore videoconferencing software (some of which, incidentally, is free) that allows remote workers to share their computer screens and access visuals. Train managers on how to oversee their employees from afar, and look to your IT team to ensure that remote work can be done safely and securely.

Health and safety first

Being flexible with work-from-home policies isn't just applicable in light of the latest health scare. Every year, the flu virus hits countless communities, causing unpleasant to severe illness. Allowing employees to work from home as needed is a good way to keep everyone on your payroll healthy, all the while preventing disruptions in workflow. As such, it pays to consider granting that leeway not just in the coming weeks or months, but across the board.