How to prepare a coronavirus policy for your games business

UPDATE - 17th March, 10:00am

The government has ramped up its public health advice considerably. There were a raft of measures announced, but the pertinent elements for business include: working from home wherever possible, if not possible self isolating for seven days if symptoms develop or for 14 days if you/anyone in your household develops it.

This shift in advice led to an activation of an internal Ukie policy to close our office and shift to remote work. We recommend strongly that businesses take the government's advice seriously and facilitate a move to work from home as quickly as possible.

For those that can't immediately, we suggest robust sickness reporting measures to catch anyone with a fresh cough or temperature attempting to work from a shared office space. You should encourage them to return home and appropriately isolate. We also recommend checking thoroughly that they have the necessary support that they need to help them through it, including checking whether they have friends or family able to support through self-isolation.

UPDATE - 12th March, 5:10pm

The government has moved from the 'contain' to the 'delay' phase of the Covid-19 outbreak. From Friday 13th March, official advice recommends that anyone presenting coronavirus like symptoms - such as a temperature of 37.8 degrees celsius or above - should stay at home for seven days to prevent additional spread. The government is also exploring options of banning event gatherings of certain sizes, but it is not likely to commit to that until the country is nearer 'the peak' of the outbreak.

We recommend that games businesses put the health of their employees first and strongly consider ways to encourage greater sickness reporting, to make working from home a practical long term option and to continue issuing wider public health advice to support them through this challenging time.

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It is right to be concerned about coronavirus (Covid-19) and to prepare for the possible impact it could have on your games business. 

But there is plenty of excellent advice about its symptoms, its current status and the best ways to contain any transmission to help you shape a company policy to respond to this public health concern. 

Here are some tips from us on how to create an effective policy for your company that balances taking the right precautions with keeping your business ticking over. 

1) Understand key public health advice 

Take time to understand COVID19 and the key public health advice surrounding it by bookmarking, reading and watching the following resources:

- The UK government's COVID19 advice site, which is updated on a daily basis to ensure it is as accurate as possible

- The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) advice and information about COVID19

- A video on handwashing produced by the WHO, to help guide effective hygiene procedures

- A regularly updated list of high risk travel areas to understand areas of risk (and where risk may be exported from)

- Specific government guidance on best practices for self-isolation (drawn from its official advice site) 

We recommend using official news sources to advise your policies to ensure you are following the best – and most accurate – advice as possible.

2) Ask three key questions about your business 

Once you’re aware of the key public health advice, it’s important to think about what possible impact that could have on your business. 

To do this effectively and thoroughly, the following three questions to ask are recommended – as proposed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – so you can think thoroughly about your current level of preparation for the developing situation. 

1- Have you checked your insurance and continuity plans? 

Is your business continuity plan up to date with a clear owner? Have you stress-tested your working from home or alternative working site policy should your office close? Have you checked your insurance policies against relevant activity over the next quarter? 

2- Have you assessed the impact on your supply chains? 

Feedback from businesses across the country is that supply chains, particularly those connected to Asia are being impacted. Have you forecasted what this impact might mean on your business in the coming weeks? Have you looked at alternative suppliers? And is any business-critical travel scheduled for high risk areas? 

3- Are you keeping your staff informed on developments with their safety as a priority? 

Have you kept your employees well informed on the government’s guidance, hygiene advice, your sickness policy and what employees should do if they experience symptoms? 

Answering these questions should help you understand what you need to do to fill gaps in your current policies and where you’re covered under your current practices. 

3) Plan an appropriate precautionary policy for your games business 

Every games business is different. This means that every company will need a slightly different policy to adapt to COVID19, which is suitable to your business size and type. 

However, there are some common issues facing all companies that you can shape your approach around. 

In particular: 

- Deciding what your business’s current position on COVID19 is, with specific emphasis on whether to maintain an open office, encourage work from home or consider a closure 

- Communicating health advice on symptoms, handwashing and effective self-isolation to your work force (whether you work remotely or not) 

- Assessing your company’s travel policy, including asking employees whether it is appropriate to attend events, meet in person and whether work from home is possible 

- Ensuring employees are aware of pre-existing sickness reporting practices, encouraging their use and encouraging a proactive ‘safety first’ to reporting illness amongst your workforce 

- Knowing what your plan is if your business becomes directly affected by COVID19 (e.g. a case in the office) and how to keep your business running (e.g. work from home) 

By considering these questions, you’ll be well placed to create an adaptable policy that suits your business. 

4) Communicate the policy effectively 

Finally, it’s important to know how to communicate your policy effectively. It is recommended that you: 

- Write the policy down in easy to understand language, ideally in a couple of pages maximum. Explain clearly what your current business position is, refer to individual hygiene advice and ensure employees know your rules around sickness reporting, meetings and more. 

- Distribute the policy through appropriate channels. Due to the fast-moving nature of the situation, it may be worth setting up additional lines of communication – such as a Slack channel, a Teams group or a WhatsApp group – with employees and managers to ensure it disseminates far and wide. 

- Emphasise its importance without hyperbole. It is right to take COVID19 seriously, to take necessary precautions in terms of hygiene and to consider carefully how that could affect your work. But do so in a calm and measured way to ensure everyone in your business takes a constructive and responsible approach. 

- Prepare messaging for use if the situation escalates so you can quickly inform your workforce of changes to your policy that may affect them. 

This will help you to inform everyone in your business about your policy and how to effectively manage challenges, while keeping business going.

Want more informations? Sheridans have put together guidance for employers here