By Dr Tomasz George, Chief Scientist at global provider of PPE ViraxCare
Set the right tone for new ways of working
Although many workers will be excited and even relieved at the thought of returning to the office, employers need to set the right tone from the beginning. Everyone should be encouraged to take responsibility for creating a safe environment for themselves and their colleagues.
Employees should be reminded to act as though they are spreading the virus at all times, as they could have it without symptoms. This means washing or disinfecting their hands before and after touching common objects or surfaces, disinfecting their workstation and wearing a mask and disposable gloves whenever they are away from their own workstation. Employees must also be reminded to work from home if they have any symptoms of Covid-19, a high temperature or if anyone in their close network has contracted the disease. Social distance markers and the use of cubicles and screens around workstations can encourage distancing and help to stop the spread.
Organise teams or shifts
Social distancing requirements may mean not everyone is able to return to the office at once, and companies might want to incorporate shift work, or arrange for certain teams to be designated to work from the home or office at particular times. Creating set office days for segregated teams ensures the virus can be more easily contained if someone does catch it, and productivity can be more easily maintained if one of the teams has to quarantine for two weeks.
Encourage wearing of PPE
Employers can provide and encourage the wearing of PPE for their employees’ commutes and during office hours. This should include a medical grade mask, along with disposable gloves/hand sanitiser for public transport. Homemade or fashion masks may not be as effective, and bandanas over the face have been shown to spread the virus over longer distances than if a face covering was not worn at all due to the aerosol effect of breathing through the fabric. Masks should also be worn in the office whenever an employee gets up from their designated cubical or work space. It is important to have a mask that is the correct size and fit for your face or it may not be effective.
Testing employees for the virus may not be possible for all companies yet, but asking a few short health questions upon entry may identify many of those at risk of spreading it inside the office. It may also be possible to provide temperature checks, and any workers who fail the checks should be sent home to isolate. A Covid-19 test can be provided by the employer or obtained from the government to check viral status before the employee should return to the office.
Incorporate sanitisation procedures
Each individual should be responsible for their work space or cubicle, and be provided with disinfectant wipes which kill the virus so they can clean surfaces and screens. It is especially important to ensure shared spaces with high touch areas are sanitised frequently, the areas most at risk are kitchen and toilet facilities, shared meeting room facilities, and lift buttons or door handles. Personal responsibility for cleaning before and after use should be encouraged, and designated cleaning of these areas should be scheduled periodically throughout the day. UV-C light is effective at killing the virus and can be shone on surfaces to disinfect them. Deeper cleaning of the office should take place as often as viable. Safe, non-toxic disinfectant mist sprays are available, as are UV-C robot disinfection devices. Viral filters can also be installed within the ventilation systems to limit the spread.