Adapt Your Workplace to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
With the lockdown getting lifted in most places, the employees who were working from home till now, are slowly returning to their workplaces. The employers now have the added responsibility of ensuring the safety and hygiene conditions in the offices. Most of the offices are indoors with very little scope of social distancing. It can be especially difficult in places where the employees had previously shared their spaces. Its essential you learn to adapt your workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19
The changes we have implemented in our lives since the announcement of the pandemic are to stay till the unforeseeable future. Until a concrete solution to the problem is invented, like a vaccine, we need to control the spread of the virus. There should be a minimum of 1m gap between people as COVID-19 is transmitted from person-to-person. Regular sanitization of the hard surfaces along with implementing other health policies is the principal requirement that every organization needs to take care of.
The following precautions can be taken by the employers to ensure the safety of their employees in their workplace.
7 ways to adapt your workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Hygiene Precaution: Hygiene is the primary factor that needs to be focused on when employees return to their workplaces. Before they rejoin, employers should send emails regarding the different health policies and practices that have been put in place. You can follow the steps mentioned below to culture better hygiene and create a safe environment.
- We advise you to carry out only the most essential and unavoidable work inside the buildings. Otherwise, try to continue working from home.
- Before reopening the building, conduct a thorough disinfection procedure.
- Provide hand sanitizers and tissues in multiple locations.
- Place no-touch trash cans in every corner of the office. Make sure that the trash cans are covered and are emptied regularly.
- Keep soap and water available at the entrance of the office. Everyone should be encouraged to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before touching anything.
- Wearing face masks should be made compulsory.
- Try to reduce the number of furniture items present inside the office space
- Avoid handshakes any other form of physical contact between employees. Use gestures that don’t require physical contact, for greeting each other.
- All surfaces should be disinfected at regular intervals. For hard surfaces (e.g. tables, desks, telephones, keyboards) use alcohol-based solutions. For soft surfaces like curtains and blinds, get them laundered.
- Try to conduct all activities outdoors with better ventilation. However, if the office space is not optimal, make sure to change the filters regularly.
- Keep surgical masks ready for anyone who suddenly starts developing breathing difficulties. The first aid kit should be well-stocked with the correct over the counter medicines. Contact the company physician for advice.
- We advise you to keep the systems running longer than before to enhance the air quality inside the building.
- Create Awareness among all staff members about the correct hygiene measures. Place posters with proper illustrations on different walls around the building. Get the Human Resource Department to send emails regarding the same content, this is critical to raising awareness and adapt your workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Many businesses will benefit from a bulk order of equipment, so consider purchasing from this PPE wholesaler who stocks high quality products in bulk across the US.
- Strategic Seating Plans: Seating plans need to be considered very carefully before everyone rejoins. Analyze your company’s budget and check if you can afford to change the layout of the office space at this time. Check the following steps to understand the steps that you can implement in your workplace.
- Remove any excess furniture from the cabins and board rooms.
- Keep a minimum distance of 2m between seats. Use bright-coloured tapes to separate the areas.
- Ask your employees to de-clutter their tabletops, drawers and any other hard surfaces so that physical contact is minimal.
- Arrange the desks in a back-to-back manner. Put up banners to remind the employees to leave the adequate spacing mentioned in the policy, before getting seated side-by-side.
- If you have an open layout, use Perspex glass screens to separate the work areas.
- The paperwork should be minimal. Instead, use soft copies and online editors to make changes.
- Managing the Staff: As we had earlier mentioned, avoid getting everyone back at the office at the same time. Promote work-from-home as much as possible. If the work is urgent, ask the employees to come in shifts. Do not crowd the place. Working in shifts help in increasing the efficiency of employees as well as helps in maintaining the social distancing norms.
Consult with the HR department to conduct activities online to keep up with the holistic work atmosphere. Make sure to strike the correct work-life balance and distribute the work efficiently. Consult with the in-house physician to help the employees take care of their health. Seek advice from the in-house counsellor to help everyone cope with these difficult times.
Specify the sick leaves policies clearly for everyone's benefit. Ask your employees to stay back at home in case they are feeling unwell. In case, if some employees were not able to go back to their families during the crisis, then check in with them more frequently. Building trust with your team shows how good you are as a leader.
- Cleaning Procedures: Frequent cleaning in and around the building should be prioritized above every other need. Follow these steps to comply with the correct hygiene standards.
- Before disinfecting the surfaces, clean them with soap and water to remove the grime and dirt.
- The cleaning staff should be provided with the necessary cleaning equipment along with gloves and masks for their safety. Promote cleanliness in the office to make the cleaners' work a little easier. Buy Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for cleaning that may involve risks.
- The high touch surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, and faucets should be frequently cleaned with alcohol-based (70% alcohol) disinfectant products. Do not use solutions that are past their expiration dates.
- Cover the electronic equipment with covers that can be easily wiped down.
- Do not mix chemical products. It can cause the emission of harmful fumes.
- Replace hand towels with replaceable tissues.
- Open the windows and doors whenever possible.
- Proper waste disposal is very crucial. Train the staff on the correct health and safety practices.
- It has become clear that COVID-19 does not spread from sidewalks or places covered in mud or sand. So, don't waste your cleaning resources in these areas. However, if there are lots of insects, rodents, mosquitoes and bugs in those areas, that can cause other infections, then hire professional pest controllers to deal with it.
- Using technology to stay connected: Using technology to carry out the daily work is the best way to avoid any physical contact and maintain social distance. Invest in a trusted cloud storage system, like Amazon or Microsoft Cloud Services, so that everyone can get access to their required data whenever needed. Get licenses for the software that can ease out the working experience. Prioritize video calls and conferences over meeting in person. Zoom, BlueJeans and GoToMeeting are popular trusted video conferencing platforms. There is remote employee monitoring software available in the market that can help the employers to track the progress of others. Use platforms like Slack, G Suite, and Microsoft Teams to connect with everyone regularly and brainstorm together. Make sure to implement Network Security protocols so that the data which is in motion is not attacked or stolen. Do not micromanage.
- Limit Travel: If you have multiple offices which are spread across different countries, we advise you to limit travel for everyone, including yourself. Under unavoidable situations, avoid sending employees who are at higher risks of getting infected, like older employees and employees with pre-existing medical conditions. For the ones who are required to travel, ask them to follow the necessary protocols of quarantining and other health check-ups. Educate them on the correct hygiene procedures and social distancing norms.
- Developing a Business Continuity plan: Disaster management and business continuity planning are crucial requites to any organization. Disasters are not always earthquakes, volcanoes or floods. The pandemic was an unforeseen situation which ultimately resulted in a disaster. Most companies employ a dynamic business continuity plan to keep up with the changing needs and possible requirements of the organization. Here's a guide on how to build an optimal business continuity plan.
- The plan should consider the strategies to keep the business running in case a lot of employees and workers leave the company.
- There may be losses incurred due to delay in deliveries, losing places of business to the pandemic or other circumstances. Make sure to manage your finances efficiently.
- Communicate with your employees and contractors and keep them informed about the current situation. They should know what to expect in case certain decisions are taken by the higher authorities. Get your team on board before deciding on any significant changes.
- For small and medium-sized businesses who have lost their workers and customers at the same time, the government has started many helplines and policies to help them. Contact the authorities to know more about them and avail the discounts for taxes and other bills. Many NGOs too, have started to reach out to the MSMEs.
The above mentioned seven ways have been recommended by experts to help businesses get back to their feet and continue functioning safely. Health needs to be the priority at such times. All the organizations have been hit hard economically due to the pandemic. So, starting to reopen the organization can be very daunting in the beginning. The chief point to remember at such times is to trust your team and not try to tackle the situation singlehandedly. Consult with the local facilities to carry out sanitization at your facility. If someone gets infected by a coronavirus, seal the building immediately to stop the spread further. Seek professional help whenever required.