By | Elaine Bennett | Editor in Chief, Bizzmark Blog
A year ago, it seemed our lives would never be the same. Stay-at-home orders, mandatory social distancing, masks, new hygiene rules, etc… it all changed every aspect of our interactions, and workplaces are no exception.
While the end seems to be in sight with the vaccine rollout, we’re not out of the woods just yet. The pandemic is still raging, and people are still getting sick. Therefore, it’s in everyone’s best interest to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as much as possible. If working remotely is impossible, here are some tips on how to make workplaces more safe during the pandemic.
Make it easy to observe social distancing guidelines
Depending on the available space, this can be very easy or very hard. The first step is making sure that all workstations are sufficiently separated and if that’s not possible, then installing separating screens/curtains is the logical alternative.
Marking distance with yellow tape is also a good idea that will help people gauge how far away they are from each other. In addition, placing reminders on walls and even floors can be very useful, as it’s easy for people to forget they’re supposed to keep their distance when they’re talking.
If possible, introduce flexible work arrangements (for example, telecommuting) and staggered shifts that will make it easier for people to stay at least 6ft from each other at all times.
Institute rotating lunch breaks
Lunch breaks are one of the biggest potential spreaders in the workplace. Lounges or lunch rooms usually aren’t big enough to accommodate everyone while they’re maintaining sufficient social distance. The simplest solution for this is to have people take lunch in shifts – a half or a third of all people in the company can be on a lunch break at any one time. While this may take more time and will probably lead to some lost productivity, it’s a small price to pay for safety. Of course, people with separate offices can take lunches there, but they should make sure to maintain proper hygiene.
This applies to all breaks. If you have a break room, rearrange the seating and clearly mark how many people are allowed to be inside at any given time.
Implement contact tracing
The best way to stem the pandemic is to make sure sick people don’t come into contact with healthy ones. This is why it’s important to develop a plan for identifying and isolating employees who were diagnosed with COVID-19 or develop symptoms and those who were exposed to someone with COVID-19.
The easiest way to keep track of who was in proximity to whom and when is to implement contact tracing systems. Human memory is unreliable, and tracking all information electronically doesn’t just help businesses, it also helps control and contain the spread of the virus in general. Having each employee install a contact tracing app on their phone or giving everyone a COVID contact tracing card is a great way to offload some of the work from your HR department.
Pay more attention to hygiene
Yes, everyone should have been doing this anyway, and it’s not great that a pandemic had to come knocking to teach people to wash hands. That said, workplace hygiene is even more important. Increase the frequency of regular cleaning and have hand disinfectant readily available throughout the premises.
Uniforms (if you use them) should be washed daily, and every workstation needs to be cleaned after use. Make sure that everything is cleaned before being disinfected. Detergent and water reduce the viral load on surfaces, allowing disinfectant to kill the remaining virus (if any).
As with social distancing, include hygiene reminders throughout the workplace.
Provide PPE for all employees
While some employees may wish to use their own personal protective equipment, that should be a choice. Providing everyone with all the basic equipment they’ll need to keep themselves and others safe will make it easier to keep the workplace covid-free and stop the spread if it appears.
Having a box of available face masks at the entrance eliminates the risk that could occur if someone forgets theirs. Also, having a specific standard for equipment ensures people won’t use ineffective protection and thus endanger themselves and everyone around them. So set those standards and make sure the employees are aware of them.
We’re slowly getting used to the “new normal,” and the procedures that help us control the spread of the coronavirus are becoming more sophisticated. If we ever want to really get back to the “old normal,” it’s necessary to take the pandemic seriously and ride it out while keeping everyone as safe as possible.
So, make sure to follow these tips and the guidelines prescribed by health agencies. Until people are vaccinated in sufficient numbers, these safety measures are just something we’ll have to live with