The pandemic has forced business owners and employees to rethink how they work together. Working from home has become more commonplace and is an effective strategy for reducing the spread of the coronavirus – but it’s not always possible.
For some businesses, working in the office full or part time is unavoidable. For others, the office environment is important for their productivity, social connection and mental health.
Creating a safe and healthy work environment is important all the time, but especially during the pandemic. Not only will a safe and healthy work environment reduce the risk of transmission, it can also help ease anxieties in the workplace.
Whether you’re a business owner, manager or employee, there are steps everyone can take to make the workplace safe, clean and healthy during COVID-19. Here are 7 actionable steps to get started with today:
1. Promote proper hand hygiene
Good hand hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent transmission and keep everyone in the office healthy. Managers should ensure that there are adequate hand hygiene facilities throughout the office at all times.
In non healthcare settings, washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to remove harmful microorganisms. Liquid soap is better than bar soap for shared facilities – and disposable paper towels are more hygienic than reusable towels.
In places where hand washing facilities aren’t available, anti bacterial hand gel should be readily available. Ensure all alcohol-based hand sanitisers in your office have at least 60% alcohol content – sanitisers with higher alcohol content are more effective at removing harmful microorganisms.
2. Clean the office regularly
Harmful microorganisms, including the coronavirus, can last on surfaces as long as 72 hours. People who touch a contaminated surface are at risk of infection, especially if they touch their face afterwards.
Regular cleaning with disinfectants will reduce the risk of picking up an infection by touching a surface in the office. In addition to a thorough daily clean of all surfaces, encourage everyone in the office to wipe down frequently used and shared surfaces.
For example, use antiseptic wipes to:
- Clean computer equipment when you’ve finished using it
- Wipe down door handles, elevator buttons and light switches
- Wipe down kitchen equipment and surfaces after use
3. Encourage mask wearing
COVID-19 is transmitted through airborne droplets from an infected person’s nose or mouth. Mask wearing can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting airborne viruses, and is especially important in indoor settings.
To be effective, it’s important that face masks are worn properly. Encourage everyone in the office to follow these best practices:
- Use a mask when indoors or talking with another person
- Wash your hands before putting your mask on
- Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth
- Do not touch the front of the mask while wearing it
- Wash your hands if you touch the mask
- Use the ear straps to remove the mask
- Do not leave the mask hanging around your ear or neck
- Discard single-use masks after use
4. Practice social distancing
Social distancing can help reduce the spread of harmful microorganisms from one person to another. Working from home is the most effective way to practice social distancing, but there are plenty of things you can do in the office to promote social distancing too.
- Encourage employees to avoid hand shaking and other physical contact.
- Shift work stations so that employees are sitting at least 1.5 metres apart.
- Space out lunch breaks so that there’s a limited number of people using kitchen and dining facilities at any one time.
- Install barriers and screens if space is limited.
- Create designated walkways or one-way walkways in the worksite.
5. Improve ventilation in the office
Good ventilation is an important step in creating a healthy workspace. It helps improve indoor air quality and displace pollutants and harmful particles in the air.
Take these steps to improve ventilation in your office:
- Ensure your HVAC system is in proper working order
- Adjust settings to limit how much air is recirculated by your HVAC system
- Ensure exhaust fans are blowing outside, away from windows
- Open windows and doors to improve natural airflow
- Ensure fans are not blowing air from one person to another
- Hold meetings outside where possible
6. Put up signs and posters
Consider putting up signs and posters explaining COVID-19 prevention methods around your office. This could include handwashing posters in the bathrooms, reminders to social distance in communal areas and reminders to wear your mask in the entryway.
The most effective signs are eye catching and easy to understand. Use simple illustrations and diagrams to encourage behaviours like mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing.
7. Screen for COVID-19
Depending on the nature of your workplace, screening employees and visitors for COVID-19 may be advisable. Nasal swab rapid antigen tests are a fast and effective way to screen for COVID-19 in the workplace and can be conducted without supervision by a health professional.
To ensure you have all the necessary supplies on hand, consider purchasing a screening kit or business prevention kit for the office. Ensure your office first aid kit is fully stocked with a thermometer, disposable gloves, antiseptic wipes and other essentials.
Workplace health and safety is everyone’s responsibility
Business owners and managers have a responsibility to make sure the workplace is safe, clean and healthy for employees, contractors and clients, but everyone in the workplace can play a part in following COVID-19 guidelines and keeping others safe. A safe and healthy workplace benefits everyone.