The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a dramatic toll on our world, leading to countless deaths and infections all over the globe, along with soaring unemployment rates in many countries and a general sense of despair, fear, and confusion among many populations.
It has been a difficult situation for everyone, and while the pandemic is still ongoing, decisions have been made in many countries for lockdowns to ease and businesses to open back up, welcoming workers back in an attempt to keep economies afloat.
After spending weeks and months at home in isolation, more and more workers are being asked to come back into their places of work. With unemployment numbers in the US reaching exceptional highs, many employers are choosing to act in order to preserve jobs and protect businesses.
However, trying to work in a COVID-19 world can feel like quite a challenge, and it’s clear that special preparation needs to be taken in order to help workplaces be as safe as possible for returning employees.
With this in mind, here are some useful tips and techniques to bear in mind when welcoming workers back in order to make sure that every employee feels as safe as possible, minimizing the risk of viral transmission and helping everyone stay healthy while working.
Social Distancing Is Key
The term ‘social distancing’ is one that many people would never have heard of just a short time ago, but has quickly become an integral part of COVID-19 vocabulary. Keeping physical distance between oneself and others has proven to be an effective way of combatting the spread of the virus, but it can be quite difficult to distance in a working environment.
There is no way to socially distance inside an elevator, for example, and many offices are quite cramped, with small cubicles and narrow hallways making it hard for workers to observe the usual rules. Still, efforts have to be made to make workplaces as safe as possible, and there are various ways you can do this such as reorganizing offices, adding floor markings to help people stay distant, and installing arrow signs to help people walk in one-way systems.
Follow Official Guidance
Many employers might feel overwhelmed by the concept of creating safe working spaces during these COVID-19 times, but it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is available for employers and is regularly updated with new guidelines and recommendations.
As one of the leading health organizations on the planet, the CDC is best-equipped to provide accurate, scientifically-backed evidence and advice to help employers and employees respond safely to the threat of the virus. Check the CDC website often for new recommendations and follow the official guidance listed there to give your employees the safest possible environments.
Another excellent initiative employers can take in order to help make their businesses safer for workers is to actually raise awareness among staff regarding the risks they face and the correct procedures they should follow. Employees should be reminded to wash their hands often, for example, as well as being urged to alert management and seek medical care if they notice any symptoms.
The more employees know, the better prepared they’ll be to deal with the threats of the virus, and raising awareness also helps everyone to feel safer and more trusting of their employers too. It shows that you take the threat of the virus seriously and value your employees’ well-being, so be sure to use memos, reminders, emails, and meetings to remind workers of their responsibilities, as well as your own.
When it comes to battling COVID-19, disinfectant products are among the greatest weapons available to us. Recent reports suggest that the virus has the potential to linger on surfaces for many hours, easily being transmitted from one person to another, simply by touching a table or opening a door. This is why cleaning workspaces regularly is exceptionally important.
Official government guidelines for employers reinforce this idea and recommend that workplaces be cleaned as often as possible. The exact manner, method, and frequency of cleaning will vary depending on what kind of business you do. For example, those with retail stores and lots of customer contact may require more frequent cleaning than small offices with limited staff numbers. Either way, cleaning needs to be done regularly.
Recent times have taught us all that when it comes to a viral outbreak like COVID-19, acting quickly is one of the best ways to stop or at least limit the spread and reduce the overall damage done by the virus. We’ve seen many examples of fast-acting authorities helping to quell the virus’ spread, while slower reactions have given it more time to infect additional people.
The same logic applies to the workplace. If an employee notices any symptoms, action needs to be taken straight away. Letting that employee continue to carry about their regular business may lead to your entire staff catching the virus and the business having to cease operations altogether, so be sure to take action quickly and send home any workers who feel ill.
A Positive Environment
It’s also important to take the mental health of your employees into consideration during these difficult times. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive effect on people’s mental states across the globe, and countless individuals are feeling concerned, frightened, or stressed about returning to work and potentially catching the virus themselves, while also fretting about the fear of unemployment.
Employers can’t solve this problem entirely, but they can make efforts to foster a positive workplace culture and welcoming environment where workers are made to feel safe, valued, and cared for. Showing empathy to your employees and listening to their concerns will help them feel more confident about coming back to work in general.
In order to survive, a lot of businesses will simply have to request that their employees come back to work during these difficult times. If you’re choosing to do the same, be sure to bear these tips in mind in order to help your workers stay healthy and feel safe.