The year of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most difficult for many reasons, all centring around the global pandemic which has afflicted almost every country on earth. There have been national lockdowns where even the most basic of movements was restricted.
Schools, pubs, restaurants, gyms and all manner of other public spaces have been closed and people have been encouraged to work from home.
And all this has been to stop the spread of a virus which has proven both highly contagious and extremely deadly. Here are more workspace safety resources.
As the months pass, life returns a little more to normal but in effect, many of our behaviours have been changed on a fundamental level. Personal space is to be respected at all costs, face masks are de rigueur for indoors and outdoors, and we sanitise ourselves like never before.
There is a fear that hangs in the air that we might contract the virus and become ill or worse, transmit it to someone we care about that might be vulnerable. But life must go on and so we find that there are certain things we need to do in order to manage the risk to keep everything as safe as possible.
One of these is within the workplace, so there are certain measures around office cleaning & workplace safety with pandemic and beyond that need to be observed.
Let’s take a look at what can be done by companies and individuals to see how we can all work together to protect ourselves and each other:
Consider home working for yourself and staff
If you’re a business owner, one of the easiest ways to prevent transmission amongst your workforce is to keep them apart. Whilst this is not exactly ideal as it can limit collaboration and stifle some creativity, it might help in the short term.
In order to overcome the pitfalls of these separated teams, there are certain types of technology which can help.
Instant chat and video conferencing have been of huge help to most organisations and even families when it comes to human interaction and collaboration so if you haven’t fully adopted them, now is the time.
They will even help after the virus impact has passed as they will cut down on travel time and costs, and will afford a greater level of flexibility for staff.
Conduct a thorough deep clean of the whole workplace
Before bringing people back into an office environment, it is imperative that any traces of bacteria and viruses are eradicated.
The most effective way to do this is with an intensive clean of every area of the workplace including public spaces, kitchens and toilets too. It is important to ensure that places which are frequently touched such as door handles and desks as these will be the most likely ways of transmitting the virus.
A deep clean should not be a singular event either, it should be something which is done regularly to keep any spread at bay. Preferably every day should see everywhere thoroughly cleaned but weekly should be a minimum.
Use a professional organisation wherever possible so you can be confident that the job will be done properly.
Enforce general practices of cleanliness throughout the workforce
It is likely that the people within your office will actively want to keep their spaces clean so will be willing to help ensure that it is.
If you provide certain cleaning supplies and suggest ways of sanitising and maintaining hygiene levels then this will help to protect everyone.
For example, suggesting desks, keyboards, telephones and computer mice get cleaned at set times throughout the day.
Keep cleaning wipes handy for door handles and other surfaces and put hand sanitiser in as many places as possible, in particular at the entry ways to different rooms and spaces.
In the toilets, having general guidance near the sinks of how best to wash your hands to eradicate germs and disable any hand dryers as they could encourage water droplets carrying the virus to be airborne.
Instead, put hand towels in situ for staff to dry their hands. Advise staff that they must not shake hands or have any physical contact with others too.
Adopt policies of social distancing
Keeping your distance from other people is one of the best ways to avoid contaminated air from passing between people. This is because the virus passes within the liquid droplets which are emitted with the breath in talking, coughing, simple breathing and sneezing.
The nearer you are to someone, the more likely it is that these contaminated drops could infect you so staying far apart from others is very effective.
In order to facilitate this, reduce the size of the teams working within the office by having some kind of rotational system that means some people work from home whilst others come into work.
Separating desks and having a space missing between people will allow this.
A one-way system will also help the flow of people in a single direction so staff don’t get too close to each other when moving around the office.
Having visible signs to promote this will help people remember to go in the right direction.
Maintain the cleanliness of technical equipment
This may sound like an odd way to protect the workforce but it plays a bigger role than you might realise.
This could apply to different items such as cleaning equipment (vacuum cleaners and so on) which have filters to trap dirt and dust.
Often the droplets from breath that might be affected will land on the floor and as the virus can survive on certain surfaces for some time, it could well live within vacuum cleaner filters when it is hoovered up so cleaning or changing them will help eliminate the spread.
What is even more important is having any air conditioning units serviced and cleaned. These are known to create problems when they are not in good working order so keeping on top of them will help minimise any risk that might otherwise be posed.
Remove potential problems areas
Communal fridges, dishwashers, mugs, crockery and cutlery were all commonplace in offices with kitchen facilities in the past but now they can pose a huge threat.
Not only will they encourage people to congregate in the same confined space at particular times of the day, but if they are not washed properly then they will be one of the easiest ways to spread germs as many of them will have physically been in contact with the most potentially infected area on a person – the mouth.
Of course, thoroughly cleaning them would remove all traces of the virus but how confident that you and others would do this every single time? It simply isn’t worth the risk so should be avoided by having them removed.
Change sick leave and the process
In the past, offices would be filled with people battling all kinds of ailments which has spread like wildfire at certain times of the year.
Staff would not want to take a sick day if they didn’t have to so it would often be the case that they would just struggle into work and do as much as they possibly could. With such a different range of symptoms and incubation periods, plus the highly contagious nature of pandemic mean that it simply should not be the case that people come in if there is any doubt whatsoever.
There needs to be close management of this so others don’t put their colleagues at risk but it could mean that businesses are open to abuse too so managers need to be on the look out for this.
This is a crucial part of any fundamental change in the workplace comes with training as you need to ensure all staff members a well aware of why you are making them. You need to get employee ‘buy in’ as once they understand and see the benefits of the suggestions, protocols and mandates they will be much more likely to follow them.
Training needs to be for everyone and needs to be led by people who truly believe in the change. It needs to be delivered across all departments and it should not be a single event either. Staff will need continual reminders of appropriate behaviour and as such should have regular updates.
Changes to the severity of the virus and the government guidelines around best practices are likely to occur to so it is important to keep everyone up to date on those.
Until we know more about the virus or have any kind of vaccine, it is something we will need to live with for the foreseeable future.
Many of the new practices we need to adopt will be useful to keep us all more sanitary even after it has passed so will be worthwhile to fully adopt and keep on with for years to come.
If everyone is careful and follows processes such as these, we are much more able to contain the spread and save lives so with an incentive like that, they should be easy to follow!