12 Best Practices for a Safer Workplace during COVID-19lalshof2020-10-11T12:44:45+04:00
After weeks of shutdowns and remote working, businesses around the world are gradually resuming on-site operations. The foremost thought is about a safer workplace: How does a business stay operational while keeping employees and customers safe and preventing new COVID-19 outbreaks? For business owners, the challenge will be to mitigate risk as much as possible, with practices and policies that put employee safety first.
Many businesses are struggling with where to start and how to actually implement the changes. As we start the long road back to our new normality, it is important that our workspaces adhere to social distancing measures to enable businesses to begin trading fully again and lessen the future impact on our economy. It will help build trust and confidence among employees and customers.
Keeping employees and customers safe and healthy while doing business in the aftermath of a pandemic will not only hinge on safety precautions like wearing masks, performing temperature checks, washing hands, and staying six feet apart. It will also rely on getting all of us to do these things, every time, for however long it takes.
The Big Picture
Here we discuss the best practices for workplace safety and health; and in effect, helping to create a more thoughtful discussion between employers and employees. By now, everyone is aware of the basic guidelines to a safer workplace like wearing masks, washing hands and disinfecting spaces, so we will not include similar points in this article.
1. A response team for the Post COVID-19 office
A representative from different departments like HR, IT, Administration, Facility management can form a team to plan for the health and safety guidelines for the staff after reopening of the office. Other specialists may be needed but to be effective, keeping the team to around six people or fewer. The chair will then give recommendations to the senior leadership who can make final decisions.
2. Spatial rearrangement
In open-plan offices, the workspaces have to be reconfigured. While assigning workers to desks, avoid close back-to-back or face-to-face configurations keeping in mind social distancing. If employees work at a group station with connected tables, move around as many as possible to create spaces between or let the workers sit at alternate desks.
3. A Session on new norms and policies
As workers re-enter offices, hold a safety training session to introduce new policies. It can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as a few hours, depending upon how much information is needed to be given to the staff. Leaders could stand in front of employees and demonstrate their sincerity and commitment to the new policies, making the moral case for changing behavior.
4. Minimizing contact
Encourage employees to email, text, or call — rather than meet face-to-face — with co-workers. If a meeting is required then, keep at least a distance of 2 meters. The more we minimize contact, the more we minimize spread. Eating meals at desks, rather than lunch or break rooms, should be highly encouraged.
5. Use panel systems to create barriers
Cubicles and partitions give a greater degree of privacy to the individual desks, in addition to the physical barrier which this health crisis now warrants. If workers see the cubicles as a protective measure, it might have a positive effect on people’s feelings about their management and their work lives.
To know more about the importance of partitions in a Post COVID office, click here.
6. Invest in IT
In big organizations, a huge chunk of staff will still work from home. Hence, it is required to be prepared for the long haul, where staff will need to be mobile and have fast and easy ways to connect to colleagues outside of the office. Invest in IT and digital tools for your teams and purchase enough licenses to fit your organization’s needs.
7. Encourage sick employees to stay home
It is recommended that employees that have symptoms of acute respiratory illness stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever, signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours. Employers should ensure that their sick-leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are well aware of these policies.
8. Communication and Signage
Good communication is one of your first and best defenses against the physical and emotional aspects of navigating coronavirus. Create a space for your staff to reach out with their concerns and needs; where possible, make accommodations for specific needs that arise. Provide signage around the office that will keep everyone mindful of safety: good hygiene, cleaning recommendations, social distancing, and symptom checks.
9. Protect mental health
Workers in the workplace may also be affected by the anxiety and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health and to take measures to support mental well-being.
10. Good ventilation and air filtration
Good ventilation is a key to preventing the spread of COVID-19, a big trend could be simply opening a window – if windows can be opened. And where filtered air is the only option, it could be boom-time for high-end office climate control systems. There are air-filtration systems available that use UV light to disinfect the air deactivating viruses and bacteria.
11. Antimicrobial and easy-to-clean materials
One of the guiding principles is choosing materials that can withstand heavy cleaning using caustic products. Durability will be key to ensuring that neither the outer surfaces of the product or the technology within will be damaged by sanitization. There are surfaces that are antimicrobial, just like the ones used in health-care systems or in a laboratory, could be a norm for workstations.
Keeping these needs in mind, Sunon uses fabrics that are Water Repellent, Stain repellent, Oil resistant, and easy to clean. The laminates and PVC material used for furniture has an Antimicrobial function of 99%. To get in touch with us and know more about our office furniture products and commercial office design solutions, click here.
12. Post-infection protocol
Given the high transmission rates of the coronavirus, every business must have plans and processes in place in case any employee gets infected. Contact tracing, whether through the use of technology, a team of human contact tracers, or both—is required for sustaining safe working environments. Many businesses have defined return-to-work triggers for infected employees. Common triggers include multiple negative tests for COVID-19, a positive antibody test, and a two-week period of self-quarantine during which the person shows no symptoms.
The Bottom line for a Safer Workplace
To enable staff to work in offices, organizations need to make changes in their offices while the threat of COVID-19 remains. The Best practice is to communicate the safety protocols and roll out the changes at once as the ‘new normal’ way of working. Every day brings new developments in the fight against COVID-19, planned safety programs can help a company adapt and react quickly—and, ultimately, be better positioned to protect the health and safety of employees and customers alike.