Staying away from the office if you feel sick? Check.

Working from home? Check.

Washing your hands regularly? Check.

Philly employers are coping with coronavirus by restricting business trips and by networking, and recommending that some employees work from their homes. Here are some of their tips for their staff:

  • Work from home: Try it out in small teams first. Does everyone have computers and is there a central communication channel or person?
  • Update everyone’s contact information for phone, email, Microsoft Teams, Slack or other channels.
  • Disinfect workplace surfaces, including common spaces such as elevator buttons, door handles, coffee machines and restrooms.
  • Limit travel internationally and domestically unless absolutely necessary; avoid networking events.
  • Send out regular employee communications to allay anxiety and answer questions.
  • Take special precautions if you have chronic illness such as asthma or other diseases.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

Independence Blue Cross (IBX)

As one of the region’s largest employers, Independence Blue Cross said all departments must work from home as of Monday, March 16, through “at least” April 15.

Independence offices and buildings remain open for “business critical” workers. Mandatory work from home will begin Monday in Philadelphia-area offices and New Jersey.

“As a health care company and the region’s largest insurer, it is our responsibility to lead and above all else, protect the health and well-being of our employees, and in turn, the wider community,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, CEO of Independence Health Group, the parent company of Independence Blue Cross in a news release.

Besides mandating work from home, Independence said its efforts include:

  • Requiring employees to remain home when sick.
  • Reinforcing prevention, such as washing and sanitizing hands frequently and practicing respiratory etiquette (such as coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow).
  • Disinfecting all surfaces at facilities, especially frequently used surfaces such as door handles and elevator buttons.

Independence also offered an onsite flu shot clinic for employees who weren’t vaccinated earlier. “Although the flu shot provides no immunity or known benefit against COVID-19, influenza is still widespread and flu season is expected to continue through April,” the company said.

Comcast

On March 13, Comcast informed all employees who work at headquarters in center city Philadelphia “are encouraged to begin working from home” until April 12.

Comcast NBCUniversal’s chief medical officer, Tanya Benenson, recorded a video series for employees to share more about COVID-19, including tips on staying healthy and safe during the cold and flu season and how to properly wash hands.

Comcast enacted the following guidelines for travel, effective Feb. 28, 2020: International travel is limited to business-critical purposes only.

Domestic business travel is not affected at this time, according to the memo, but the business trip must be essential: that means, necessary to deliver and sustain normal business operations, including customer service, compliance, finance, payroll, technical operations, sales, product operations, and health and safety. Whenever possible, use of virtual collaboration tools should be prioritized.

What does nonessential mean? Networking, professional development, select in-person training, and meetings that can be conducted virtually (video conference or by phone) are all categories of meetings that are likely nonessential for travel purposes, and efforts should be made to host these sessions using virtual collaboration tools if possible or to postpone/reschedule.

Vanguard

The Malvern-based mutual-fund giant issued a statement Tuesday: “Business Continuity Teams further engaged to see how Vanguard could best protect the health and well-being of our crew, as well as provide information to our teams located across the globe."

"Vanguard is working closely with local and national health officials to ensure that we are following the highest levels of protocols for crew health and safety,” according to spokesperson Dana Grosser.

Using guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department, Vanguard instituted travel restrictions to China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore and Iran.

There is also a 14-day work remote requirement for those who traveled to those regions and then returned home.

In addition, “we have ceased all cross-border business travel between Vanguard sites for the foreseeable future. Cross-border business travel to non-Vanguard sites will be permitted only for the most essential needs. Vanguard has also limited all large-group gatherings and has instructed crew to cancel any plans to attend non-client or non-business essential events, such as industry conferences," Grosser said in the statement.

Vanguard is increasing frequency of cleaning in various locations and “working with our on-site catering provider to ensure their health, safety and cleaning procedures are in line with our increasing expectations. Additionally, Vanguard is working to ensure hand sanitizer dispensers are available throughout our locations.”

SEI

The Oaks-based finance company has extended its work-from-home policy for employees exhibiting symptoms of illness or for a school closing or related event that requires an employee’s child to be at home.

“We’re also waiving copay fees should an employee need a coronavirus test or use telemedicine services related to its use for coronavirus,” said spokeswoman Leslie Wojcik. SEI also banned all cross-border business travel, as well as business travel to or from Washington state.

“We are limiting all domestic SEI travel to that which we believe is critical. Additionally, all employees and consultants who have traveled, or whose household members have traveled, to a level 2 or level 3 country must work from home for the 14 days after returning. Anyone visiting our facilities will be required to certify that neither they nor a member of their household has traveled to a level 2 or level 3 country or have likely been in contact with a person that is known to have COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to their visit. Any visitor that cannot provide such certification will not be allowed to enter.”

Small Businesses

At Randazzo’s Pizza in Bucks County, “nothing has changed for us, although we do let customers swipe their credit and debit cards themselves,” said owner Frank Randazzo.

Orders “haven’t changed much, except we’re doing more deliveries. People aren’t eating out as much,” he said. “We’re seeing more families with kids, especially college kids on break.”

At this point, “distributors haven’t changed, we’re having no problems getting food or supplies" to his business at 2395 York Road in Jamison, Pa.

Your employer’s plans

Does your workplace have an employee plan in place? Send us an email at: business-desk@inquirer.com.