Travel bans, school closures, and hand sanitizer shortages... The virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, coronavirus disease 2019 (often abbreviated as “COVID-19”), has sparked a global panic with economic and social effects that cannot be fully measured yet. As countries close their borders and businesses close their doors, what can you do to protect yourself and help your neighbors?

One of the most powerful ways you can help, as a leader at your bank and in your community, is to be a positive force for keeping calm. Following are a few steps you can take to de-escalate panic while not dismissing the valid dangers of the current outbreak.

Spread facts, not germs and rumors. In the age of social media, misinformation is often more common than facts. As a leader, it is your responsibility to verify any information you disseminate about the coronavirus, even if it’s in a conversation in the hallway.

Here are a few myths and facts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Johns Hopkins:

Myth: You can catch the virus if you buy or use products recently shipped from China.
Fact:
The virus is spread primarily person-to-person, through contact with respiratory droplets produced by a sick person who coughs or sneezes.

Myth: This will all die down when the weather warms up.
Fact:
There is currently no evidence to suggest warm or humid weather will slow the spread of the coronavirus. As spring comes to Wisconsin, urge your coworkers and neighbors to continue preventative measures, especially frequent handwashing.

Myth: Healthy people should buy and wear protective masks at all time to prevent infection.
Fact:
Healthy individuals should only wear protective masks when caring for a person who is infected (or suspected to be infected). Further, masks are only effective when used in combination with frequent handwashing. With supply chains disrupted, it is important to reserve supply of protective masks for the healthcare workers and sick individuals who need them most.

Encourage precautionary habits. Be a good example for your coworkers, your friends, and your family. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands often with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds), using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and avoiding close contact with sick individuals (which means staying home from work if you are ill).

For managers in particular, practicing what you preach when it comes to staying home from work if you are feeling under the weather has a tremendous impact. Your team will follow what you do, not what you say. So, if you tell everyone to go home if they’re sick but you’re in your office coughing and sneezing, no one is going to go home. If possible, take the next step and offer remote work options so employees don’t need to use PTO or leave time to avoid infecting others.

Communicate the plan. Anxiety and panic thrive on uncertainty. Your bank has a business continuity plan that most likely includes information on how to respond during an epidemic. Even if that plan hasn’t been updated since H1N1 (or even the Spanish Flu), the same basic principles apply. The most important point for leaders is to be transparent in communicating with staff and customers about the bank’s response plan. Reiterate clearly and often what pre-determined responses are included in the plan (such as closures or mandatory remote work) and what the triggers for those responses are.

By promoting—and practicing—common-sense preventative measures, fact-checking information before sharing it, and being transparent about business continuity plans, bank leaders can help stop the spread of panic and uncertainty related to COVID-19 and be what banks have always been known for in their communities: strong, steady, and reliable service providers.

Additional Resources:

WBA:

  • Free coronavirus webinar
    The WBA is offering a free, 60-minute webinar on what Wisconsin bankers need to know about the coronavirus and specific steps to prepare banks and their staff. Our experts will focus on human resource issues, business continuity, and more. Join us on March 16 from 1 – 2 p.m. RSVP today.

  • Coronavirus Resource Page

  • Member discounts on supplies
    Office Depot offers a selection of their most popular cleaning and disinfecting products to help control illness-causing germs so you can keep the workplace a healthy space. Click here to download a flyer with more information.
    Deal of the Month: $50 off a purchase of $300. Download the coupon here.

Government Agencies: