Get Business Rewards with every order! Get 1 Point for every $10 Spent Find out more in the Rewards section*
It’s fair to say that, although most of us just want to get back to normal, coronavirus isn’t going away any time soon. In an ideal world, we would all be able to work from home and wait it out. Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic, and many workplaces are returning to “business as usual”. We’ve put together a couple of handy guidelines to keep everyone - employers and employees - safe during these challenging times.
The easiest way to prevent the spread of coronavirus is to be smart and use common sense. Prioritise not only your health and safety, but the health and safety of those around you. None of these, or any other, measures are 100% effective but if everyone practices all of these things we can greatly reduce the spread of the disease.
Any time you’re going to be around people, wear a mask. Your mask protects me, my mask protects you. If you’re unable to wear a mask, make use of a face shield. It may be advisable or necessary for you to wear disposable gloves in the course of your work. These should be replaced frequently, not worn over multiple tasks in different areas, and you should thoroughly wash or sanitise your hands both before and after using gloves. Remember to choose PPE that is suited to the work you’re doing, and make sure that it fits correctly - and also maintain all your PPE in proper working order. Remove and store each item appropriately, and clean or dispose of them as required.
Keep your hands away from your face as far as possible. The virus spreads mostly from person-to-person, through droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing, but there is also a risk for infection by touching the mouth, nose, or eyes after handling a surface with the object on it. This is minimized by proper hand washing protocols and regular sanitizing of surfaces. To be safe, keep your hands on your work and not on your face.
Not everyone who coughs or sneezes has the coronavirus, but everyone who coughs or sneezes should be practicing good health hygiene. If you have to sneeze or cough, do so into a tissue, or into the crook of your arm - not into your hand. If you have to sneeze or cough suddenly and there’s no time to reach for a tissue, forcing you to do it into your hand, immediately use hand sanitizer or, better, wash thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
In the winter months, cold and flu are to be expected, but many of the symptoms overlap with those of the coronavirus. People entering the premises should have their temperature taken with a contactless thermometer. They should also be made to self-report on a questionnaire of symptoms, and if they report any positives or present with a fever, they should be declined entry. If you have any symptoms, it’s better to be safe and stay at home.
One of the main ways in which the coronavirus spreads is by close contact, especially person-to-person, or by being in close proximity with an infected person. This means that the firm handshake of the past has had to give way to new ways of doing business.
By now, we’re all used to the social distancing measure of keeping 2m between ourselves and the next person, and it’s easy enough when you’re in your own home, or just doing a quick grocery run. It’s less easy when you’re in the confines of the workplace, especially in an open-plan office, but even then it’s not impossible. Furniture can be rearranged to allow for the distance to be maintained, and desk partitions and room dividers can help to create separate areas even in tight quarters.
With people returning to the workplace after so long in effective isolation, it may be tempting to set up in-person meetings. Although the social aspect may be a comfort, recommendations from the CDC and other health organisations are still to keep distant. Rather than a face-to-face meeting, hold a virtual one, make a phone call, or send an email or text. If you absolutely have to meet in-person, make sure the meeting room is well-ventilated, seat all participants as far away from each other as possible - 2m or more - and keep the meeting as short as possible. Or hold the meeting outside if you can - the brisk winter air will help you to keep the meeting time to a minimum.
Communal areas present their own challenges. If the company has provided crockery and cutlery, these should be retired. Instead, each employee should have their own set which is for their exclusive use and not to be shared with anyone else. Each employee should be responsible for the washing and separate storage of their crockery and cutlery to minimize exposure to other people. Break times should be staggered to limit the number of people in communal areas. Stationery such as pens and scissors should also not be shared between employees. If there is no alternative, shared items should be thoroughly wiped down with sanitizing wipes between uses.
It should go without saying that keeping things clean prevents the spread of germs and disease. Now, more than ever, we must pay attention to cleanliness and hygiene, not only in ourselves but in our surroundings as well.
Everyone should already be washing their hands regularly throughout the day. For the best results, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing thoroughly with soap and warm water, for 20 seconds or more. If you haven’t got a timer handy, 20 seconds is about the time it takes to sing (or hum) Happy Birthday, twice. Or, if you’re tired of that particular ditty, pick the chorus of a pop song and repeat as necessary. Some favourites include Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, and Prince’s “Raspberry Beret”. Don’t forget to get in between your fingers, your knuckles, and the backs of your hands as well!
While washing with soap and warm water is tops, it may not always be possible. Using a hand sanitizer is an effective alternative - as long as the sanitizer contains at least 70% alcohol. Everyone who enters the premises, whether they’re an employee or a guest, should be required to sanitize their hands thoroughly. The use of foot-controlled or other “no touch” hand sanitizer dispensers can further prevent the spread of germs.
Although the CDC has said that the virus spreads mainly through close person-to-person contact, there is some evidence that the virus can remain active and viable on various surfaces for several hours or even days. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that all surfaces within the workplace are cleaned and sanitized regularly. This is especially important for things like phones, which come into frequent contact with the face and mouth, as well as handrails and doorknobs which are touched by multiple people throughout the day.
If you have to use someone else’s device, desk, or stationery, be sure to clean and disinfect it thoroughly both before and after use - and thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands.
These tips are simple and easy to implement, and if everyone in the workplace pulls together, it should be easy to keep everyone safe. Because these measures aren’t just for keeping you safe, they’re to protect those around you. Be kind, and remember to respect others.