As countries are gradually ‘unlocking’ their activities, many of us are bracing ourselves to return to work. As exciting or relieving it may sound to be, the threat of COVID-19 is far from being over.
Coronavirus is unsuspectedly tricky. It spreads from one host to a dozen more in no time. As per the current statistics, 9.24 million cases have been reported, of which over 4 million are active cases.
Yet, lockdowns cannot be enforced indefinitely. Activities ought to be resumed to keep life going. The economy has weakened and cannot be shut down for long; we need to get back to work and recover it. At this juncture, it is not fear that should guide us, but precautions and preventive measures.
How to Return to Work After COVID-19?
Though the whole world has found itself in dire straits due to the pandemic, it is possible to curb its spread and elude the disease if certain guidelines are strategically carried out in workplaces.
Here are the most important and crucial guidelines to be followed while you return to work after the COVID-19 lockdown. If carried out diligently, you will be able to prevent the disease from spreading.
1. Respiratory Hygiene
COVID-19 mainly spreads through respiratory droplets. When an infected person talks, coughs, or even sneezes the droplets can settle in the mouths or noses of people in close proximity ( within 6 feet). These droplets can be then inhaled into the lungs triggering the disease. Well, it might have occurred to you by now; the very importance of respiratory hygiene. So, do promote respiratory hygiene at your workplace.
There is always a danger posed by asymptomatic transmission and masks can prevent respiratory droplets from spreading to another person. Surgical masks are said to block almost 99% of the transmission while cloth masks could prevent 60%.
There are certain steps to be followed while using masks as well.
- Cleanse your hands thoroughly with soap and water or with a sanitizer before wearing your mask.
- Make sure that both your nose and mouth are covered with the mask. Also, try not to have any gaps between your face and the mask.
- Do not touch the mask while it is being used. If you accidentally do, clean your hands.
- Masks ought to be replaced when damp.
- Do not touch the front of your mask while removing it. Always remove it from behind.
- Always wash your hands after taking off the mask.
- Dispose of your masks properly. Disposable masks should be used only once and then burned off after its use. As for cloth masks, wash them separately every day using a hypochlorite solution.
- Make sure you use your own masks. Also, do not share your masks with anyone.
Face shields are also highly recommended now. When used in combination with other preventive measures like social distancing and frequent hand washing, face shields can contribute a lot in protecting you from contracting the virus. A face shield has a few perks as well. It can be sanitized easily and reused as well. But that’s not all. It blocks you from touching your eyes and nose unconsciously, which of course is an added benefit when compared to masks.
If in case, you have neither a mask nor a shield, try not to cough or sneeze into your hands. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue paper or your upper sleeve at such instances.
2. Wash Your Hands Regularly
You would have come across this suggestion a zillion times by now, but the question is have you followed it? Hope you have. Well, if that’s the case continue the practice in your workplace as well.
Wash Hands with Soap and Water
Ensure you wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Why? The common man’s soap is one of the biggest threats to the virus. The molecules of soap lather have the power to trap the viral matter and literally rinse them off!
WHO recommends that you wash your hands with soap and water rigorously at least for 40 seconds. By this time the soap lather can form pin-like molecules, that makes the viral molecules soluble in water to wash them down the drain.
Now, you don’t have to keep your stop-watch ready every time you do this activity. Here’s a simple tip: Sing the Happy Birthday song twice at a normal pace and your timer’s all set!
While the aforementioned is the best practice to get rid of the virus, always keep a sanitizer handy, just in case you don’t have access to soap or water.
Rub your hands with a sanitizer for 20 seconds until dry. Make sure you have covered all the surfaces of your hands while rubbing it with sanitizers.
Alcohol-based sanitizer can also help in killing the viruses to a great extent, though you can’t expect it to be as effective as soap and water.
3. Maintain the Hygiene of your Workstation
The obvious, yet the crucial point. Hygiene is no more a ritual that you observe once in a while. In the present scenario, hygiene has an important role in sustaining lives and therefore cannot be snubbed. So, when you return to work, make sure you maintain a clean, hygienic work station.
Desks, tables, and other items ought to be wiped clean with a disinfectant periodically. The virus can contaminate surfaces touched by an infected person, who could be, in this case, an employee or customer. The need for a hygienic work station should be stressed over and over again due to this very reason.
4. Follow Workplace Etiquette
The conventional workplace etiquettes will be modified due to the pandemic. Here are the workplace etiquettes to be followed while going back to work after the COVID-19 lockdown:
- As per the new norms, a dedicated workstation will be given to every member of the office. Strictly work in the space allotted to you.
- Try to use your own stuff like laptops, headphones, etc. and avoid exchanging things.
- Do not touch the walls or other places that often come in contact with many people and are always at the risk of being contaminated.
- Keep a distance of at least 6 feet while having lunch or dinner at the mess or canteen.
5. Travel Precautions
COVID-19 has been affecting lives across the globe which is why it has been declared a pandemic. This is also the reason why certain travel precautions are followed now.
- If you are going on a business trip, do consult the National Travel advice. But it is best to postpone business trips for a while.
- If you have come back after traveling, ensure that you self-quarantine as per the advice of the health authorities.
6. Social Distancing
As advised earlier, always keep a distance while interacting with your colleagues at the office to curb the spread of COVID-19.
- Make sure that your workstation is not closer than 6 feet from your colleagues’.
- Maintain a one-arm distance while interacting with your colleagues.
- Avoid shaking hands at all costs. Greet your colleagues with a Namaste or a hand wave.
7. Stay at Home, if Unwell
Are you unwell? Then you should call off all your plans at the office and work from home. If you observe even a mild cough or cold, do stay back at home.
Also, if you have come in contact with anyone who has traveled back from a COVID containment area or a hotspot, it is advisable to self-quarantine and work from home. No risks can be afforded in the present circumstances.
Special Guidelines to Be Considered by Employers for Safe Back to Work Transition
Employers should also maintain a plan to promote a smooth transition back to work. Here are some special guidelines that employers should consider when their employees return to work after COVID-19 lockdown.
1. Manage the Number of Employees
Opening the doors of your office to your entire workforce will be foolhardy. The risk of contracting the virus will increase exponentially. So, you must control the number of employees working from the office.
Closely monitor the tasks given to employees, list down the ones who are assigned crucial work that has to be done from the office workspace, and allow only those employees who made it to the list. You can perform this activity every week and accordingly change the number.
Encourage the rest of the employees to work from home. Always remember larger the number, greater is the risk.
2. Enforce Screening Protocols
Conduct a mandatory screening process for employees every day before admitting them into the office. This can help a great deal in reducing the risks of COVID-19 and ensuring the safety of the workforce.
You can perform a temperature check or ask your employees to fill in an online form that includes symptom or travel-related questions. You don’t have to spend hours on making this form. SurveySparrow has developed a free self-help portal to help organizations mitigate the threats of COVID-19. Here’s how you can collect the travel details of your employees.
3. Reconfigure Workstation
Reconfigure your office setting in such a way that it facilitates physical distancing between employees. See to it that the workstations or seating arrangements of every individual in the office are separated by a distance of 6 feet from another. Also, effectuate meticulous cleaning schedules for faculties.
4. Encourage Remote Meeting
Meetings demand the presence of a group of individuals and it is best to avoid in-person meetings as it can be risky. Exchange of ideas and progress notifications can be made through video conferences as well.
5. Hand COVID Kits
Provide COVID kits to employees working from the office. The kit should contain necessities like masks, disposable hand gloves, and sanitizers. This will encourage employees to maintain personal hygiene.
6. Spread Awareness
Educate your employees about the need to follow new hygiene regimes. Explain to them in detail about the reasons and the benefits of following certain guidelines in the office. Display posters promoting hygiene, social distancing, hand washing, and so on.
Such steps will instill a sense of responsibility in your employees and they will be urged to observe and stick to the guidelines.
As we mentioned earlier, the fight against COVID-19 is far from being over. Yet, we need to maintain a balance for our survival and hence, return to work to stop our economy from collapsing while maintaining our safety. This is the new normal. We need to accept it and keep moving forward. Let’s keep fighting until we win this!
P.S: Do you have any other guidelines in mind to follow while getting back to work? Then do comment and let us know.