LIMA — The key to getting Ohio fully back to work during the coronavirus pandemic has more to do with what’s happening outside the workplace than in it, area business leaders said.
Still, local businesses are in a unique position to speed along the state’s economic and physical recovery, said Pat Tiberi, CEO of the Ohio Business Roundtable.
“It’s all about increasing awareness in employee engagement around the state, taking responsibility for their behavior when they’re at home and when they’re out in public,” Tiberi said. “As Gov. DeWine has said, we believe that employees are safest in their workplace. Our members have been all over those safety protocols.”
The group began the Coalition to Stop the Spread late last year. Stopthespreadcoalition.com includes tools for businesses and the public, including fact sheets about COVID-19 and vaccines. It also offers sample emails from CEOs and employer talking points to help businesses communicate about the virus.
Now the emphasis is on building community immunity to “get back to some sort of normal,” Tiberi said.
Companies in the region seem to have enough personal protective equipment available to them, said Jed Metzger, president and CEO of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce. Now the challenge is keeping employees healthy when they’re away from the job. He joked about his Super Bowl party experience this year, watching with his dog.
“Employers have done a good job of educating employees. Most are taking temperatures. Most are enforcing mask wearing, unless it gets them in trouble with OHSA,” Metzger said. “I think we’re doing our part. We just have to make sure employees are doing their part when they leave the work environment.”
Karen Grothouse, the CEO of Spherion of Lima, said real-world sickness helped her business understand the importance of following the rules. Its president, Carol Russell, caught the virus and was sick from it. That emphasized the importance of following precautions, both for the office staff and for the laborers Spherion places in area businesses.
“We don’t want anybody else on our staff or any of our loved ones to be as sick as Carol was,” she said.
Tiberi said businesses also have the opportunity to educate their employees about the safety of vaccines. He’s heard the concerns of people not trusting them based on the speed it was approved but noted parts of the science had been figured out 15 years earlier. He said he’s eager to get the vaccine when he’s eligible and would “like to take one today if I could.” The demand outpaced the supply so far, but there’s still an opportunity to alleviate people’s fears before they’re eligible for the vaccine.
“As businesses, we don’t want to force people to get the vaccine,” Tiberi said. “We want people educated enough and feeling confident enough to take the vaccine.”
Metzger said it’s a sign of respect for others to try to protect one another.
“The vaccine will help protect the coworkers, and out of respect for others, we encourage people,” he said. “That’s our next step to consider, getting the vaccine for everyone.”