Let’s take a look at how we’re preparing our packaging company, Korpack, for success amid the Coronavirus outbreak and steps you can take to ensure your business’s success as well.

You’ve already felt the impact of the “Coronavirus Disease-2019” (COVID-19) on your business and industry. Even if you’ve been operating your business from inside of a cave, you’re feeling the impact of the Coronavirus. At this point, essentially no business or industry has escaped the impact of the pandemic.

At Korpack, we’ve taken a lot of steps to adjust our packaging business. Korpack is classified as an essential business because we distribute paper products, cleaners, sanitizers, as well as  packaging, which allows our customers to ship food, medical supplies and other essential goods. Supply chains have to keep flowing. Right now, food and other essential supply chains are facing pressures and potential shortages not seen in years. 

Still, we’ve taken a lot of steps to protect our employees, customers, contractors and more. Many of our staff members are now working remotely. Our sales, marketing, accounting, supply chain, procurement, and quality/IT teams are working online and skipping visits to the office. 

Some of our packaging warehouse, manufacturing, and shipping team members are still working at our facilities. Still, we’re working hard to protect our team members on the ground and to continue to support packaging and shipping operations across Illinois and the United States.

We’ve done a lot of research regarding safe business practices during this pandemic. While our research has focused on the packaging industry and maintaining our industrial operations, we’ve learned a lot of useful things along the way that we feel are worth sharing.

Keep in mind, Korpack is a packaging company. We’re packaging experts by trade. While we took the time to hunt down advice from legitimate sources, trust in healthcare professionals and experts first and foremost. This is a rapidly evolving situation and new facts could come to light. 

Go as Remote As Possible

COVID-19 spreads through close contact with other people. The best thing anyone can do is maintain social distancing. South Korea, Singapore, and other countries have gotten a good handle on their respective Coronavirus outbreaks, for now. Their initial success has been due in large part to social distancing.

Crowded offices offer the perfect environment for COVID-19 to spread. A cough or sneeze appears to be able to spread the virus for 6 feet or more. If someone is carrying the virus and participates in a team meeting in the boardroom, everyone could end up infected with the Coronavirus. A quick walk and a few coughs around the office could be enough to spread it to several people as well. 

That’s why many companies have switched to remote work. At Korpack, we’ve shifted as many employees as possible off-site, letting them work from home. This can be disruptive and can be difficult for some team members to adjust to. 

Let’s look at some tips for making remote work easier for everyone involved

How to Encourage Productive Remote Work At Your Company

There are numerous steps you can take to enable and empower your remote workforce. Some of the things that we’ve found helpful include:

Start and End the Day with Check-Ins

It’s going to be harder than usual to keep many employees on task. That’s why starting the day with the team and/or employee check-ins is smart. Go over what needs to be done, who is responsible for what, timelines, and the like. 

Team meetings are always important. With employees adjusting to the new reality of remote work, however, (online) team and staff meetings can be even more valuable. Many employees used to a lot of direction will find themselves working under their own direction. 

And it can be easy to get distracted at home. Netflix always beckons, kids and pets may need to be cared for, and who isn’t following the news headlines?

Check-ins at the end of the day can help a lot too. Have employees update you on their progress. This creates accountability and expectations. Both will help employees stay on track.

Don’t be surprised if there’s a productivity dip, especially during the first few weeks when your company is adjusting to the new remote reality. Over time, however, employees will grow more comfortable and disciplined while working from home. 

At Korpack, remote work has been quite the adjustment. As a packaging supplier, many of our company’s processes and functions were centered around our packaging headquarters. This made it easy for the leadership, business process, and ground crews to work together. 

The new reality, however, is that people should work remotely whenever possible. Let’s look at some tools we’ve used to empower our remote packaging experts. 

Giving Your Employees the Tools to Succeed

Remote work is possible mostly because of the incredible technological advances we’ve enjoyed over the past few decades. The Internet makes it possible for many business processes to be handled from anywhere. However, empowering your employees takes more than handing them a laptop.

  • Remote Meeting Software: Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and many other companies make remote meetings relatively easy to host. Employees can log in, and use the cameras on their smartphone or computer to both see and hear other team members. 
  • Document Sharing: Passing files back and forth via email can get very messy. You’ll have multiple versions floating around, and messages can quickly get lost in the clutter of your inbox. Using document platforms, such as Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, or Dropbox, will make file sharing much easier. 
  • Workflow/Project Management Software: It can be hard to keep projects during dire times and with everyone adjusting to working remotely. Even small projects, like drafting up blog posts or updating company policies, can be a pain to manage. Project management software, like Pipefy and Trello, can help people visualize what needs to be done when due dates are coming up, and the overall state of individual projects.

There are tons of other tools out there that could help you and your team adjust to remote working. Figure out where bottlenecks and other problems are cropping up. Then, see if there is a technological solution that could help. 

Harden Your Facilities Against the Coronavirus

For many companies, it’s not possible for every team member to work remotely. That’s certainly true for packaging suppliers, like Korpack. While our marketing, sales and some other business process teams can work remotely, our manufacturing and warehouse staff obviously can’t.

As of right now, you can’t load shipping trucks and manage a warehouse and manufacturing center remotely. Maybe someday the technology will be there but we’re not there yet. For now, our shipping and manufacturing packaging experts need to be on the ground.

Still, there are steps you can take to protect frontline team members. Let’s look at some:

Provide Masks (if Available) and Gloves

Right now, there’s a shortage of N95 masks, and masks in general. Until supply chains get sorted out, it’s best for these masks to get into the hands of health workers working on the front lines. Eventually, however, more masks may enter the market. When that happens, distribute them to your staff members. 

We carry 3M’s full line of N95 masks and other safety related equipment. Currently, we are only able to support end-user customers operating within critical industrial infrastructure as specified by the U.S. Government – excluding healthcare, hospitals, first responders, and government, which will be serviced through other channels. This mostly consists of food, energy, and pharma manufacturers. If you qualify for these masks or are interested in any other PPE from Korpack, please email us at quotes@korpack.com

You also need to show people how to properly wear the specific masks you get. Many people wear masks wrong, which can dramatically reduce their efficiency. There are a variety of videos and tutorials online that you can share with employees to teach them how to wear an N95 mask correctly.

You may have a bit easier time finding gloves, although many hospital-grade gloves are also in short supply. As always, it’s best for any products in short supply to get into (or in this case, onto) the hands of healthcare professionals and other frontline workers first. 

We also carry all types of gloves including, latex, nitrile, cut-resistant and vinyl. Our stock is changing quickly as orders come in and products are shipped out. If you need gloves, get in touch with our staff and we’ll let you know what’s on hand.

Once gloves do become available, it’s smart to provide them to your employees. Make sure your employees refrain touching their face as much as possible and swap out the gloves for new, sterile pairs periodically.

Sanitize Hands and Fomites as Much as Possible

Cleaning agents, including the humble handwash, are also in short supply. Still, you want to provide sanitizers to your staff if possible. Many companies are trying to ramp up hand wash production. There are some potential substitutes as well, such as dish soap, that may be effective at killing off the virus. 

Make sure, however, that employees wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. A five-second wash won’t be enough to kill COVID-19. Hand sanitizers with 60 percent or more rubbing alcohol also appear to be effective. Again, stock and supplies change from day-to-day, so reach out if you need handwash or other supplies.

It’s also important to regularly and frequently wipe down fomites. A fomite is a surface on which viruses (and bacteria) can be deposited and then later picked up by someone who physically touches the surface. A doorknob is the most obvious example.

Let’s say an employee, John, is heading to the breakroom. On the way, John sneezes. Wanting to protect their fellow employees from droplets, John sneezes into his hands. Next, he opens the door to the breakroom, then proceeds to wash his hands for 20 seconds.

There’s just one problem. Did you catch it? John opened the door, using a doorknob or pushing on a door to get it to open. If John is carrying the Coronavirus, it may have been deposited on the doorknob or another surface. If another employee touches that surface, they could become infected, especially if they touch their face. 

By regularly wiping down high-risk fomites, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, and handles, you can reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading through fomites. It’s best to use strong cleaners, such as bleach. Of course, talk with your cleaning crews and figure out what is safe for any given surface and how to protect employees from potentially dangerous cleaners. 

Please reach out to us if you need help finding the right disinfectants for your company.

Maintain Social Distancing at the Office, Factory, or Warehouse

Social distancing is going to be a permanent part of our vocabulary going forward. Social distancing refers to efforts to distance yourself from other people, including friends, coworkers, and family, in an effort to slow down the transmission of the virus.

Staying home is an important part of social distancing. If you’re working remotely, don’t head down to the coffeeshop, work from home. If you have to go into the office (or run down to the grocery store or pharmacy) try to minimize and consolidate trips as much as possible.

As mentioned above, however, some employees are going to have to come into work every day. Right now, packaging companies, distributors, grocery stores, hospitals, and other essential businesses are working around the clock to keep the economy running and society functioning. That requires a lot of labor power.

If you have to work on-site, here are some tips for social distancing and reducing the risk of contracting the virus:

  • Try to stay at least six feet away from other people, including coworkers. Don’t sit together in the breakroom, don’t crowd around the water cooler.
  • Skip handshakes, hugs and the like. Some people are doing elbow bumps, but it’s better to simply stay six feet away. Give a wave if you want to say hi.
  • Stagger break times to discourage employees from gathering and overcrowding breakrooms. 
  • If an in-person team meeting is needed, find a big, open space and keep people six feet apart.
  • Encourage employees to take their temperature before coming into work. High temperatures are a common symptom of COVID-19.

Companies need to provide sick leave as well. This is going to be a huge burden for many companies and organizations. But an outbreak that spreads through your team is going to be a far bigger, potentially crippling burden. 

If an employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, it’s best for them to stay home. Maybe they simply caught the common cold. Yet if an employee with COVID-19 shows up at your warehouse, office, or manufacturing facility, it could quickly spread.

Buckle Up for the Turbulence Ahead

If you’ve flown in an airplane, then you’ve probably seen the pilot flip the seatbelt sign on, warning of turbulence ahead. Right now, the buckle up sign is on and you need to strap in. The times ahead could experience a lot of turbulence.

At Korpack, we’re working hard to support shipping and logistics operations around the country. Our warehouse and packaging efforts are vital for keeping supply chains moving. Many other companies, workers, and leaders are stepping up as well. The coming weeks are going to be tough, but together we can tackle this crisis.