June 11, 2020 - Jason McElweenie

What Will the Post COVID-19 Workplace Look Like?


As more and more states open back up, business owners are faced with some tough choices on how to move forward in the midst of a pandemic. Some have had to make some tough decisions already with some businesses working remotely or some closing down completely. For those that are still around, how does a return to the office, factory, store, etc look?

Businesses returning to the workplace are faced with a new environment, where norms are either adjusted or removed completely. A post-COVID world will and does look very different from where we were prior to the pandemic. Below are some examples of issues executives must address as the country begins to pick up where things went south earlier this year.

Daily Temperature/Health Checks

One of the biggest symptoms of someone that might have come down with coronavirus (COVID-19) is an elevated temperature. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees might be in this elevated state due to a host of reasons, but it’s best to err on the side of caution. How do you determine if someone is showing symptoms? There are a variety of ways – like regular temperature screenings or use of the Axiom Medical self-check-in app CheckIn2Work. Anyone that fails a temperature screening or doesn’t pass the self-check-in screening should be sent home and any area they have come in contact with should be cleaned.

Augmented Hours

Current CDC guidelines are still suggesting people social distance with a minimum of 6 feet apart. One way to address this is to stagger your shifts as much as possible. This might be hard to do for some companies, but if you’re in a small office and you can allow employees to work varying hours it should be looked into.

Safety Precautions

As mentioned above, a 6-foot distance should be used at all times, but face coverings are needed as well. There isn’t any legislation forcing a company to provide a face mask for employees, but is a $2 face mask cheaper than two weeks or more of lost time due to an employee catching COVID-19?

Other precautions:

  • Protective Screens
    • By now most of us have seen the use of protective screens increase over the past 4 months. If you’ve been to a grocery store recently you may have seen clear protective screens placed between the cashier and customer. If not, think of it as a giant protective guard, as they have at Subway. It’s a clear barrier meant to help stop the spread of germs. Placing these between desks can help in cramped spaces.
  • Break Rooms
    • Assess the size of your break rooms and employ the 6′ rule throughout the area.
    • Limit the number of people that can be in the break room at all times.
      • Place markers on the floor to delineate social distancing.
        • If your break room is small, place these outside the entrance so people know to wait until the interior of the room is safe for them to enter.
  • Restrooms
    • Place safety placards near sinks notifying people to wash their hands and arms for at least 30 seconds.
    • Place alcohol (either a spray bottle or wipes) for extra cleansing.
  • Entrances/Exits
    • Place hand sanitizers at every entry/exit.
  • Professional Cleaning Services
    • Hiring a professional cleaning service can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Companies like ISS and others offer a variety of cleaning services and schedules to help keep any location clean.
  • Outdoors
    • Another possible scenario to alleviating distance constraints is allowing your employees to work outside. If you can allow it, create mobile workstations outside of your building. It can be something as simple as picnic tables with shade tents and electrical outlets.
  • Other Areas
    • Places, where employees gather, should also follow the same guidelines. Areas like conference rooms or training centers, to name a few, should practice social distancing and be routinely cleaned.
  • Vending Machines/Coffee Makers
    • Disabling or removing vending machines may seem extreme, but these are touchpoints where multiple employees will interact with each other without thinking about it. There are a variety of ways to address – like bowls with common vending snacks that people can choose from. Leave a jar for an honor system if you can.
    • For coffee, this is another touchpoint, where people will contact surfaces.  As above, you could replace the coffee pot with single-serving coffee pods to reduce interactions.
    • If none of these is an option, placing alcohol wipes and/or hand sanitizers near these appliances will help.

Other safety precautions that some companies may face are transportation to and from work. The CDC has suggested that some companies offer incentives to ‘use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others‘ and if that isn’t possible, they suggest those that travel by public transit should be given the option to augment their hours so they can travel outside of peak times.

For more on social distancing ideas for the workplace check out the 6 Feet Office

Moving Forward

As we move deeper and deeper into how we all deal with this pandemic, the biggest tool you can use is information. The more people understand the severity of this situation, the better we will all come out of this. Obviously you’re going to have those that don’t subscribe to these safety precautions, so laying a clear foundation on what your policies are will help these people either fall in line or be asked to find employment elsewhere. This is still a very serious time and any kind of dip in safety can have an adverse effect on your business.

Visit the CDC for up-to-date guidelines concerning Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)


Top 10 Tips to Protect Employees’ Health from the CDC

Healthy employees are crucial to your business. Here are 10 ways to help them stay healthy.

  1. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisals, and ensure employees are aware of these policies.
  2. Have conversations with employees about their concerns. Some employees may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
  3. Develop other flexible policies for scheduling and telework (if feasible) and create leave policies to allow employees to stay home to care for sick family members or care for children if schools and childcare close.
  4. Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about their plans. Discuss the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.
  5. Promote etiquette for coughing and sneezing and handwashing. Provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, soap and water, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  6. Plan to implement practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees if social distancing is recommended by your state or local health department. Actively encourage flexible work arrangements such as teleworking or staggered shifts.
  7. Perform routine environmental cleaning. Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, handrails, and doorknobs. Discourage the sharing of tools and equipment, if feasible.
  8. Consider the need for travel and explore alternatives. Check CDC’s Travelers’ Health for the latest guidance and recommendations. Consider using teleconferencing and video conferencing for meetings, when possible.
  9. Provide education and training materials in an easy to understand format and in the appropriate language and literacy level for all employees, like fact sheets and posters.
  10. If an employee becomes sick while at work, they should be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home immediately. Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting areas the sick employee visited.

 


Posted in CDC, coronavirus, covid-19, Employee Health Management, Injury Case Management, Occupational Health Management, Population Health Management, Workplace Safety