The coronavirus pandemic has completely disrupted the normal functioning of our country. For the sake of public health, entire industries have been shut down and millions have lost their jobs.
Although the future remains uncertain, many states are beginning to reopen their places of work in an attempt to get society going again.
The pandemic has hit certain areas of the country much harder than others and for that reason, the reopening will look different depending on where you live and what kind of work you do.
In this article, we’ll be going over some of the ways in which you can make your workplace safe for employees as the country reopens.
How Can I Prepare for Coronavirus Disease at Work?
Preparing your workplace for the age of coronavirus doesn’t begin when you enter your building again for the first time. Instead, you have to begin a critical process of research, decision making, and communication prior to reopening.
Start by researching the government regulations and guidelines as to how different workplaces are mandated to reopen.
The rules pertaining to when and how businesses may reopen differ between states and even counties. Take a look at your state and local government websites, or reach out to local officials if you are unsure what regulations apply to your workplace.
This is a confusing time, where policy is changing quickly and uniformity is hard to come by. You may find it useful to reach out to people at other companies who share your workspace.
As an employer, you are responsible for making critical decisions that impact your business. When it comes to reopening, you will have consider many difficult questions including but not limited to:
What have been the shortcomings of remote work?
Why is working in-person a better option than remote work?
What kind of risk will my employees be incurring?
Does my workplace allow for social distancing?
Can I enforce social distancing policy?
Who needs to return to work and who does not?
Can I afford the cost if something goes wrong?
Developing a plan will be critical, and using the existing guidelines is necessary.
Try to communicate with other employers in similar situations to see what has worked for them and what hasn’t.
What can I tell my employees about reducing the spread of the coronavirus disease at work?
Communicating with your employees is going to be one of the most challenging and important steps towards resuming normal business at your workplace.
A workplace only functions when everybody is on the same page. Public health is a matter of individuals all taking steps to protect the well-being of not just themselves, but one another.
Establishing new rules for in-person interactions, office spaces, and daily routines will be critical.
As important, is making sure that everybody is aware of these rules, and agrees to them. Communicating changes to the rules, and keeping everybody in-the-know will be necessary to keeping the workplace safe.
Below, we’ve gone over some of the general ways you can keep your workplace safe for employees. Remember that each workplace and job is different, so you’ll have to adapt these to your own situation.
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See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.
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Creating a Safe Workplace
Essential workplaces, such as grocery stores and pharmacies never closed during the pandemic. Over the past several months, these workspaces have evolved to incorporate new cleaning standards and employee practices.
Using these as your models can be an effective tool to implement health standards in your own workplace.
Cleaning and sanitizing the workplace
Keep sanitizing stations around the office, especially at entrances and exits.
Disinfect using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19
Disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Have employees disinfect their personal workspace more than once a day.
Create an office environment that encourages employees to follow cleaning standards. These guidelines are only effective if employees actually follow them!
Social distancing and hygiene in the workplace
Employees should at no time be closer than 6 feet apart.
Spread out desks and meeting places to maintain a safe distance.
Create new patterns in the office for getting around. Try using floor markers that are six feet apart, or assign certain walking directions for hallways.
Employees should wear gloves and masks, especially if working in an indoor setting.
Employees should wash their hands frequently throughout the day.
Screening employees and visitors in the workplace
Unfortunately, COVID-19 test kits are not widely available nor immediate enough to be implemented at common workplaces. Instead, you can take your employees' temperature when they first arrive for work. One of the common symptoms for the coronavirus is a high fever.
While testing kits may not be available to have in the workplace, at-home testing kits are available. You can have a coronavirus testing kit shipped to your door following a virtual doctor's appointment, results are available in as little as 48 hours. Learn more here. Having your employees frequently tested can prevent workplace outbreaks.
Limit visitors in the workplace and try to conduct meetings remotely. If visitors are necessary, screen their temperature and take down their contact information. Being able to get in touch with them if you discover an outbreak in your office that they may have been exposed to is critical.
What should be done if a worker tests positive for the coronavirus?
Contact all people who have been in contact with the infected individual to alert them to their exposure.
Everybody who was in the office during or after that person’s presence should seek testing immediately.
Have the work space cleaned thoroughly.
Empathize with both the infected employee and those who are nervous they may too have it. Don’t speculate, you are not a doctor, but be responsible and kind towards those whose health is at risk.
Related: COVID-19 Vaccine Doctor's Note
What if an employee refuses to come to work for fear of infection?
Your policies, that have been clearly communicated, should address this.
Educating your workforce is a critical part of your responsibility.
Local and state regulations may address what you have to do and you should align with them.
Read More About Coronavirus
PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.
cdc.gov. CDC/EPA Cleaning & Disinfecting Guidance. Accessed on June 17, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html
edis.ifas.ufl.edu. COVID-19 FAQ for Grocery Stores: General Questions and Employee Health. Accessed on June 17, 2020. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs333#:~:text=%2D%20Your%20policies%2C%20that,should%20align%20with%20them.
hbr.org. Your Employee Tested Positive for Covid-19. What Do You Do? Accessed on June 17, 2020. https://hbr.org/2020/03/your-employee-tested-positive-for-covid-19-what-do-you-do