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How Montreal employers are handling the COVID-19 outbreak

Many employers have asked employees to work from home due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The Canadian Press file

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has thrust employers across Quebec into an unprecedented situation, as hundreds of thousands of employees are now working from home, while many others returning from trips abroad are being made to self-isolate before they can return to work.

HR specialist Sherri Rabinovitch told Global News Morning that different sectors are being impacted in different ways because not everyone is able to perform the functions of their job from their living room.

“Ultimately, the preferred method is that everybody work from home,” she said. “Keep your employees home if at all possible.”

But for many workers who provide essential services or simply need to be in the office to perform their duties, Rabinovitch says employers now have a responsibility to keep their workspaces clean and minimize the risk of viral transmission there.

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“Make sure that the environment is as sanitary and healthy as possible,” she explained, adding: “It’s actually now mandated by the government to do so.

“Anytime you are doing anything, no matter what you touch, always err on the side of caution and just wash, wash, wash.”

Another important step employers can take is staggering the times of the day their employees are in the office and moving to shift work, if possible.

“We need to see flexibility so that everybody isn’t using mass transit at the same time, for example,” she said.

For times when multiple people are in the office, she added that other changes to regular workflow should be made.

“No face-to-face meetings — [changes] like that are essential,” Rabinovitch said.

But employees also have responsibilities with newfound importance in this uncertain time, too. Rabinovitch said it’s critical that workers are honest with their bosses about their recent travel history, among other things.

“People are not really being honest about where they went on March break,” she said. “It’s really important to be truthful about that.”

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The government is now strongly urging people returning to Canada from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days to ensure they haven’t brought the novel coronavirus back from wherever they travelled. Many employers aren’t just urging that — they’re often now requiring it.

Meanwhile, if you are now working from home, Rabinovitch says you should work with your employer to make sure you’re able to do your work both effectively and comfortably.

“It was so quick that we asked people to [work from home] so if your employer can provide a mouse, something ergonomic, that’s a bonus,” she said.

She also urged people to monitor how they’re feeling mentally in this uncertain time, especially if the way they work has been upended by the outbreak.

“We don’t want to see people slide into a state of social isolation themselves,” she said.

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