One of the biggest challenges for businesses in recent years has been how to successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. While we are not yet clear of the disease, vaccines are now making a return to the office a possibility. For employers and employees, the most pressing question is how can that return to work happen safely?
The first step for any business thinking about bringing its employees back into the work environment is to ensure they are operating in compliance with government rules. Governments around the world are introducing rules to ensure both the protection of the population and economic viability. This may mean hand sanitizing stations and regular health screenings. While not everyone afflicted with COVID-19 will exhibit shortness of breath or a continuous cough, a temperature of 38.0°C (100.4°F) or above is a good sign that the individual should be checked for COVID-19. Other symptoms employers and employees should be registering include flushing of the cheeks and fatigue.
The second step is to ensure that shared spaces do not become areas of transmission. Ideally, employees will have access to an individual workplace and so there will be no need for equipment, such as telephones, computers and biometric keypads, to be used by more than one person. When this isn’t possible, equipment should be disinfected before and after each use. At the same time, businesses and individuals are advised to introduce a habit of routine disinfection, even if a workstation is only used by one person. For soiled surfaces, sanitation should involve soap and water cleaning before the disinfection.
Depending on the type of work you do, face masks or coverings may be required by law. In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) makes the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) a requirement following the results of some risk assessments. Even if the wearing of face masks and coverings isn’t mandated, it should still be encouraged. Employees should expect that appropriate PPE will be provided and the correct training given.
Other strategies that companies are employing include measures to promote social distancing. In general, two meters (around six feet) between individuals is recommended to slowdown the spread of the coronavirus. One possible way to encourage this is through flexible work hours that involve the staggering or rotating of shifts. This can minimize the number of people in the work environment at one time while maximizing work efficiency.
In addition, physical workspaces can be adapted to create more space between employees or, if the physical limitations of the building make it difficult to expand the distance between workers, plastic dividers can be introduced to create a physical barrier
No employer wants to be responsible for an outbreak of COVID-19. While they must lead the way in creating a safe work environment, it is up to every employee to ensure they are taking the right steps to ensure they, their colleagues, and their families, remain healthy.
Every employee should:
These simple measures, as applicable in daily life as they are in the office, can help to slow down the spread of the disease.
We offer a comprehensive range of services to help businesses navigate the difficulties surrounding COVID-19. Every company has been affected differently by the pandemic but there are commonalities in the way organizations can recover, renew and reinforce their business.
Starting with creating a safe work environment, we offer independent evaluation of cleaning and disinfection procedures. Organizations that pass will earn the Disinfection Monitored Cleaning Checked mark, a clear demonstration to stakeholders that you are focused on protecting them. Our inspectors can also evaluate the work environment to ensure the right business management practices are in place to comply with regulations for a safe work environment. Finally, once employees are safely back at work, we can help businesses to develop an effective continuity strategy that will minimize downtimes while optimizing recovery.