Are you ready to get back to work?

In many parts of the world, businesses, and schools are welcoming back people to the workplace after the pandemic hiatus. 

Staying safe is a priority. That means protecting your employees and customers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half the people confirmed with COVID-19 cannot identify the source of infection.

Some people are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic during their contagious period. While the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 are just fine after a few weeks, some people get very ill or have lingering health effects.

Read on for some safety tips to help us all reach the “new normal”.

1. Follow Local Guidance

In the absence of unified national or state policies, look to your local health authorities for preliminary guidance. You want to consider

  • State policies
  • Local Health Department orders
  • Employee vulnerability

Are you able to protect the most at-risk employees and their families?

Assess your risks and risks to your employees. Determine what work can continue at home and policies to support employees who must care for dependents while working. Continue to limit travel and exposure as much as possible.

2. Prevent Infection From Work Surfaces

COVID-19 cases caused by surface contamination are rare compared to other transmission vectors. This does not mean that it is impossible to catch the disease from a contaminated telephone or elevator button.

For maximum efficiency, follow these safety guidelines.

  1. Practice your usual cleaning protocol to remove grime and dirt.
  2. Use a contact disinfectant like Vital Oxide, a bleach solution, or 70% alcohol solution to sanitize the surface.
  3. UV light in the correct wavelength and time can also sterilize surfaces.

For frequently touched areas, plan on cleaning more often. For example, restrooms, light switches, door handles, stair rails, and elevator buttons need a wipe down more often than once a day.

Provide self sanitation supplies such as stocked handwash stations, hand sanitizer, and hands-free controls like automatic doors or touchless faucets. Make their use mandatory and ask employees to remind one another to use them.

3. Follow Ventilation Safety Tips

COVID-19 spreads through moisture droplets from the mouth and nose of an infected person reaching the eyes, mouth, or nose of a victim. The office environment can reduce the risk of catching the virus.

Adjust ventilation systems to circulate fresh air from the outside. Use high-quality filtration to reduce viral load.  If doors and windows can be opened to improve circulation, open them.

Length of time in crowded, indoor conditions seems to be the key to indoor clusters of COVID-19.  Wherever possible, limit the exposure your employees have to respiratory droplets.

4. Insist on a Six Foot Distance

Viruses are small. However, we know that the virus that causes COVID-19 is a hitchhiker. The virus rides on moisture droplets as we breathe and speak. Those droplets land on surfaces and are carried by our hands to our eyes, nose, or mouth. Smaller droplets hover in the air and are breathed into our lungs.

Identify where and how employees are exposed to respiratory droplets. Common areas where people have close or lengthy contact are suspect. For example, conference rooms, reception desks, cafeterias or break rooms, changing rooms, lobbies, or elevators.

Take precautions where people gather.

  • Space out workstations at least six feet apart
  • Limit the number of people allowed in rooms
  • Place physical barriers and occupancy limits in areas 

Safety tips include staggered start, break, and end times to limit crowding.

Wearing a face covering limits the spread of respiratory droplets into the air. Consider providing face coverings and frequent reminders to wear a mask and wash your hands. Make this the office norm rather than the exception.

5. Keep COVID-19 Out of the Workplace

Staying safe at work depends on the cooperation of the general public. More than a few businesses hit the headlines with their insistence on mask-wearing by customers.

For the safety of your employees and their families, make sure that all people within six feet of one another are masked. Barriers between work and customer areas, distancing reminders, and hand sanitizer stations are also a good idea.

Include all your stakeholders in communication plans. It’s not just important for your management and employees. Include the visitors to your facilities, vendors, temp employees, the cleaning crew, and customers as well.

Don’t forget to communicate with contractors and contractor employees who share your space. 

6. Consistent Company Practice

Make it part of the company culture to:

  • Stay home when sick
  • Monitor employee health with temperature checks and testing
  • Ask customers and vendors to respect your policies
  • Make alternate arrangements for vulnerable customers and employees
  • Remind people of company policies regardless of rank
  • Lead by example

Of course, be flexible, as new information about COVID-19 becomes available.  Recommendations change as the experts discover more about how the disease spreads and who it affects.

7. Make Mental Health a Priority

The pandemic continues to have deep effects on our lives, the economy, and the world. Check-in with your employees at home and in the office. Many people report guilt and anxiety due to NOT being in the office.

On the other hand, just as many people present symptoms of anxiety and depression due to their care for elderly parents or children. Some people find the transition from months of isolation back to an office difficult.

Expect some employees to show signs of PTSD, as pandemic shutdowns caused trauma to many lives. Drastic lifestyle changes and uncertainty in the past few months made an impression on everyone.

Keep Looking Ahead

Safety tips for work are only part of moving forward towards “normal”. Every business has an opportunity to innovate and change. Progress is uncertain.

There will be setbacks, stops, and starts. Make sure your plans include them. Encourage your employees and customers to join you in a safe and positive reopening strategy. 

Want more helpful advice and information? Keep reading!