Around the world, more and more countries are moving to reopen their economies. For many businesses, this means their employees returning to work after having spent some time working remotely. Other businesses, such as grocery stores and other essential services have been open throughout the pandemic.
Whatever the case, it is critical that businesses provide a safe and healthy environment for employees, clients, and anyone else who may visit your premises, as part of your duty of care and responsibility to the community in general. Here’s how to keep your workplace safe in the context of COVID-19.
Maintain Exemplary Cleaning
Regularly and thoroughly cleaning is essential in the workplace at all times, but no more so than in the context of a global pandemic. Workplaces can be hubs for transmission of COVID-19, and we know that the virus can live for up to three days on some types of surfaces. If an infected person touches a door handle, photocopier, or coffee machine, the disease could easily spread throughout the workplace.
It is therefore essential that all parts of the office are regularly cleaned, daily at a minimum, with cleaning products that include disinfectant. This should include all surfaces such as desks and counters, as well as all other areas that people touch frequently, such as door handles, door plates, rails, phones, and computer keyboards.
Encourage Hand Washing
Workplace washroom hygiene also plays an important role in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, not to mention other infections. Thoroughly washing hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds will kill the virus, and therefore prevent people from spreading it to others.
Make sure to keep washrooms and stations well stocked with soap or hand wash and make sure all employees are regularly washing their hands. Train your staff in proper hand washing – a surprising number of people don’t know how to properly wash their hands. Posters detailing correct hand washing should also be placed above every sink, and hand sanitizer made available throughout the office also.
Send Employees Home When They’re Sick
It is also absolutely essential that any staff member who is unwell stays at home to avoid spreading infection to others. Even if they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19, any employee who is displaying any symptoms must immediately leave work and contact the health services from home.
Additionally, there are other circumstances when employees should stay home. Because COVID-19 can be infectious before sufferers display any symptoms, and some carriers are completely asymptomatic, they could spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected. Anyone who was been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, or anyone who has travelled internationally should also completely isolate themselves for at least two weeks. As the employer you should also educate your workers about the different types of covid tests they can get, i.e. antigen swab test vs antibody test.
Implement Physical Distancing
Another measure you can implement in the workplace to keep your workers safe from COVID-19 is physical distancing. The World Health Organization recommends that we maintain a distance of at least two meters (six feet) from others in order to avoid contracting the coronavirus. These safety measures should also be applied in workplaces to avoid the spread of the virus.
You should maintain a much distance as possible between employees, and in particular in between employees and customers or customers and other customers. For example, restaurants will need to greatly space out seating of patrons. In an office this could mean spacing out desks or moving away from open office layouts and towards individual offices or cubicles.
As well as physically spacing workers and others, you can also help to isolate people and therefore prevent the spread of disease by reducing congestion of workers or customers. Simply put, this means limited the number of people who are on your premises at any given time. You can do this by limiting the number of customers or visitors that can be onsite at the same time, and switching to appointments rather than drop-ins if possible. You may also choose to have staff working from home part of the time, and come into the office in staggered shifts.
Encourage People to Work from Home
Although you should do everything you can to provide a safe and healthy work environment, ultimately the best way to keep your employees safe is for them not to come into work at all. Whenever possible, you should encourage your staff to work from home. This will not be possible for everyone, but those that can should be encouraged to work remotely part or all of the time.
You should make it as easy as possible for your employees to work from home but not just encouraging remote work, but actively supporting them to do so. This may include supplying special equipment so that they can work from home, or setting up new systems for communication.