It seems like the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon. This means that people around the world will have to learn how to live with the disease as this will become the “new normal”. In some countries, citizens are asked to wear masks when in public by their governments. Social distancing is also becoming normal at work and public places.
In Australia, social distancing is now becoming second nature as outbreaks continue in some cities around the country. However, mandatory mask wearing depends on where you live. In Victoria for example, citizens are asked to wear face coverings when they are in public. With all of this confusion, many are asking whether businesses and offices are ready for the new normal.
Here are some tips on how you can safely manage opening your business in these pandemic times.
Implement Basic Health Protocols
Basic health protocols include: frequent hand washing or sanitizing, social distancing and mask wearing. Businesses have to realize that in order to protect customers and employees, everybody has to follow these basic guidelines.
In some countries, washing or hand sanitizing stations can be seen outside businesses and patrons are encouraged to wash their hands or sanitize before entering the premises. This is to make sure that there is minimal transmission of the virus once patrons are inside the stores. Additional protocols like mask wearing and social distancing can limit the transmission of airborne particles that could contain the virus and protect patrons and employees.
The Australian Government Department of Health has issued orders for everybody to practice physical distancing, good hygiene and to stay at home when sick even though states and territories are easing restrictions. Following these basic health guidelines at the office can protect everybody from the virus.
Risk assessment should be followed at the office. This is an easy step that involves all employees in order to minimize everybody from contracting and spreading the virus. Risk mitigation includes:
- What can cause injury or infection at work?
- Evaluate the level of risk. How likely is this to happen?
- What are the steps needed to eliminate or reduce the risk?
Everybody should be involved in risk assessment. This will help you identify risk issues and reassure everybody that the company is being proactive regarding safety in the workplace.
Mental Health Support
Covid-19 has brought about uncertain times. Many of the world’s governments are in recession with economies contracting at alarming rates. Many employees and businesses also face uncertainties as shutdowns, unemployment and bankruptcies are being filed around the world. There is no doubt that the pandemic has affected everybody physically, emotionally, financially and mentally.
This is why it is also important to provide mental health support to employees who are having a hard time or those who want to reach out and talk. Like Covid-19, mental issues are invisible and sensitive. Providing employees the support they need in order to cope with these uncertain times can help them become happier and more productive.
Protect People At High Risk
Some employees are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 than others and there are those who have a high risk of dying due to complications of the disease. For example, workers who are frequently on field and meet with different people are more at risk than contracting the virus. Providing them with proper PPE (personal protection equipment) can protect them from infection.
Senior citizens with comorbidities like heart disease and diabetes and those who suffer from autoimmune disease are also more likely to suffer from complications and have higher fatality rates. If you have senior citizens employed at your establishment, it is better to provide them with other alternatives like working from home or moving them to other departments that require minimal contact with people from the outside.
Keep a record of your guests too. You will want to inform them of possible infection should anybody from your business test positive for Covid-19. You can do this by physically recording their names and contact number or you can use a Covid-19 contact tracing app.
Australia uses COVIDSafe. As of August 1, 2020 the NSW Health announced that the app has helped in tracing an additional 544 people who tested positive for Covid-19. Remember, every case matters.
The other app being used in the country is Coronavirus Australia for information and isolation registration.
Clean & Disinfect Office
The office and the premises should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. If your office has a cleaning staff, they should be trained and provided with proper PPE as well as disinfectants that are effective against Covid-19.
High touch surfaces like desks, keyboards, mice, doorknobs, light switches, drawers and other similar surfaces should be disinfected and sanitized regularly by employees before and after office hours. The rest such as floors, bathrooms, lounge and other common areas can be disinfected by the cleaning staff.
Employees and cleaning staff should also practice proper hand hygiene. Bottles of sanitizers should also be made available for employee and customer use to minimize transmission on fomites.
Training And Awareness
Everybody at the office should be trained in Covid-19 prevention and awareness. All employees should know and understand the basic health protocols and why they should be followed. Management should make it a priority to educate their employees about Covid-19 and what they can do to protect their fellow co-workers and family members.
Aside from this, staff should be aware or trained what to do should they test positive. In many parts of the world, once a positive diagnosis is received the individual is required to contact the local health workers for proper isolation and treatment. Employees should know who to contact and what to do should they face the worst case scenario.
Office workers should also be aware what to do if one of their colleagues test positive. For example, they should be made aware that self-isolation is important in order to prevent spreading the disease to their co-workers and family members.
Many businesses are now open in Australia even though the government has imposed lockdowns in some areas due to surges in infection. This delicate walk between public health and the economy is nothing new as governments around the world also learning how to find a balance between them.
Businesses and offices have to learn how to co-exist with the pandemic in order to continue providing service, products and to exist.