As the world starts to return to some degree of normalcy after two to three months of lockdown restrictions and social distancing, it is important to remember that we still haven’t got over the Covid-19 pandemic and that it is now more important than ever to stay vigilant and cautious with regards to practicing safety precautions.
The cautious behavior is also required from businesses, which after months of grueling and frustrating lockdown has restarted their operations. And while this is good news for not just individual businesses but also the world’s economy, again it’s important on part of the business owners and relevant departments to act rationally and responsibly towards maintaining a safe working environment for their people. According to the CDC, the Covid-19 virus can survive from hours to days on surfaces, which means sanitization of the entire facility, as well as, adopting a more hands-free approach (where possible) will play a big role going forward with the business operations. Also, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recommended businesses to develop strict and comprehensive safety guidelines for routine operations to avoid the spread of the pandemic and minimize health concerns for employees. Creating a safety checklist would help employees to understand the scope of the measures to follow and comply with them during their daily work operations. Read this detailed guide on covid-19 checklist by digital health.
The New Normal for Workplace
Covid-19 pandemic has already transformed the way we interact in our daily lives and set the precedent for the new normal at the workplace. Apart from the safety checklist, businesses may implement more safety measures to minimize the spread of Covid-19 at the workplace. CDC also recommends creating Covid-19 pandemic guidelines to ensure compliance with the safety requirements to be implemented across the facility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees.
In this respect, sanitization of office buildings and other equipment is of primary importance to minimize the spread of the pandemic. Since the buildings will be visited by many people throughout the day, it’s of utmost importance to sanitize all places and areas of the buildings like elevators, doorknobs, chairs, and other places to ensure effective safety measures.
Covid-19 Safety Guidelines at Work
Obviously, the best approach to stop or minimize the spread of pandemic at the workplace is to eliminate the virus in the first place. And while this may seem a next to impossible task, you can definitely minimize the spread by implementing some safety measures, discussed below:
Raise staff awareness about the signs and symptoms related to Covid-19. In this regard, the HR department will have to take the lead by creating a detailed Covid-19 FAQ, as well as, answering individual staff queries about their concerns about the pandemic.
Flexible Sick Leaves
Any employees who feel sick (have a temperature of cough) should be recommended to stay at home. Again, HR would have to lead in this regard by coming up with flexible sick-leave policies, as to accommodate the employees who are sick or who are tested positive for Covid-19
Encourage remote working procedures, as much as possible. Covid-19 has already shown that many job roles can be managed remotely; thanks to the advancement of the technology. And already, business leaders and HR departments across the world are building new working procedures to encourage remote working environments; at least for partial employees. This policy isn’t just to reduce the spread of the pandemic but also a cost-effective measure that will contribute to the financial recovery of businesses post COVID-19
While handshaking has become an involuntary response not just in the business world but also in our day to day lives, CDC has strongly recommended discouraging the practice at workplaces and homes, till we get over the Covid-19 pandemic
This is yet another precedent that has been set by Covid-19. CDC has strongly recommended businesses to restrict their business-related traveling as much as possible. Video conferencing has come up as a viable alternative that has already shown its effectiveness in replacing the business meetings
Take Care of Hygiene
To minimize the spread of the pandemic, businesses need to support employees’ hygiene by keeping hand sanitizers, soaps, tissues, disinfectant wipes in reach of all employees
Covid-19 Social Distancing Guidelines at Work
Social distancing has proved to be one of the most effective safety measures to minimize the transmission of the virus and bring it under control. This is also the reason why countries were forced to go under strict lockdown, thereby maximizing the social distancing in neighborhoods and communities. And now that the businesses are reopening, they need to continue practicing social distancing as the new normal safety measure in offices. The social distancing mantra is simple for offices; larger spaces and fewer people. In line with this, many businesses have adopted a partial attendance policy where they are calling in half of the employees on any given day to ensure social distancing at workplaces. Here are some ways you can also implement social distancing at your office:
The goal here is to only call the most essential employees in the office, required to run the operations effectively. To be able to achieve this, businesses need to encourage telework and remote work practices. Where, instead of physical meetings, they can take-on video conferencing, as well as, use cloud technology to keep up sharing of data amongst employees
Flexible Office Schedule
HR needs to come up with a staggered office schedule, by calling partial employees on any given days. This can be implemented by creating two to three teams and allocating different working days for each team. To compensate for lost production, these teams can be rotated in seven days; instead of five or six working days, thereby keeping up with the productivity, as well as, the safety of employees.
In line with the social distancing guidelines, reconfigure the office furniture keeping them at least six feet apart. Also, discourage any sharing of equipment, furniture or even stationaries amongst employees
Workplace Reopening Guide
The best way to minimize the spread of COVID-19 after reopening offices is to reduce the common touchpoints as much as possible across the office building. Transitioning to touch-free technology and making a few important critical updates may help reduce the transmission of viruses.
Make proper arrangements for ventilation in the buildings
Research has shown that Covid-19 virus transmission is minimum in outdoor spaces or areas with proper ventilation. Thereby, before reopening the offices, make sure to install high-efficiency air-filters and robust ventilation systems to minimize the transmission cases in the office
Identify Hotbeds for Transmissions
Just like any other viral infection, there are specific conditions that serve as the breeding ground for corona transmission. In the case of offices, such hotbeds may include areas with high traffic, common touchpoints (doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, bathroom space, lobbies, and others). Once such areas are identified, make sure to create an effective and efficient sanitization and disinfectant plan for these areas
Transfer to hands-free Door Access
Door handles and knobs are among the most common touchpoints, and consequently most vulnerable as transmission hotbed. Thereby, if possible switch to motion-detection technology to minimize transmission. Alternatively, switching to Bluetooth technology to control various common touchpoints like lobbies, elevators, and others would greatly help in reducing the transmission cases in the office environment
Install Antimicrobial Hardware
Studies have highlighted that the Covid-19 virus may live longer on some materials than others. Thereby, special silver ion coated hardware like door handles and other devices are available to slow the spread of the virus
Cloud-based work management system
With the advancement of technology, it’s no longer a problem to manage remote working employees through a dedicated cloud-based work management system. The system can be used by employees, as well as, HR people to manage and accommodate work from home schedules
Invest in automated technology
Voice-activated and other automated technologies are increasingly available in the market with easy implementation. Such technologies can be integrated across the buildings to eliminate maximum common touch-points, increase the security protocols, as well as, offer more flexibility to administrators
Social Distancing Policy Implementation
HR should work with the business executives to not only come up with a strict social distancing policy but also take steps to implement it in letter and spirit like avoidance to gather in the lobby, or conduct group meetings
Takeaway for Covid-19 Office Safety Guide
Remember, at this time the most important aspect is to ensure the health and wellbeing of your employees. While the list of Covid-19 office safety guidelines may appear to be exhaustive and daunting, it’s important to implement these measures and add even more what you may deem necessary. Before your employees rejoin the office, make sure you have taken sufficient measures in line with the Covid-19 workplace safety guidelines to minimize vulnerabilities and risks of virus transmission at your office. Make sure you sanitize and disinfect the complete office facility, especially common touch-points. Also, implement a change in the worksite infrastructure moving chairs at least 6 feet apart from each other and other measures to continue practicing social distancing. Also, check out the HVAC system, install high-efficiency air-filters, and standard ventilation system to negate any infectious environment for the virus.
The key to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic lies with the technology. The past many months have shown the ability of technology to undertake most of the routine business tasks, and with time it will only get matured. By implementing advance technology at office site like cloud-based work management system, hands-free accessibility and other businesses can ensure investing in a safer and healthier workplace environment.