How to Create a Safe Workplace During COVID-19 & Beyond
In only a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented impact on the way we live and work.
It has created significant workplace challenges, as employers have had to restructure their organizations in light of the pandemic and governmental stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures.
While many organizations have moved to remote work amid the pandemic, some essential employees have been unable to work remotely, as they require proprietary systems, or work with sensitive materials that require employees, or shifts of people, to be on-premise to get their job done.
As the stay-at-home orders are lifted and millions of employees begin their return to work post-lockdown, a new set of challenges and considerations must be addressed.
The journey ahead requires workplaces to have a concrete plan in place to navigate from where we are today, which is effectively crisis mode, to the new normal and the new 'business as usual,' whenever that may be and whatever that may look like.
Organizations need to determine what this new 'business as usual' means to them. And no matter what, it will inevitably look different today than it will 3 weeks from now, 3 months from now, and beyond.
It is critically important for employers to establish a return to work plan unique to its business and workforce.
This includes having protocols in place to create a safe, stable work environment to keep everyone, including employees and customers healthy and happy.
While cleaning and disinfecting are the foundations of creating a healthy office culture for the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, workplace well-being also includes things like meaningful communication and effective signage strategies.
We hope these tips for office safety will provide both knowledge and peace of mind so that you can return to work safely and confidently during the coronavirus pandemic.
First and foremost, employers and managers should stay informed and continue to monitor the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Health Canada websites for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and the necessary precautions to combat its spread. These organizations frequently update their websites, so employers should frequently monitor these websites.
CLEANING GUIDANCE FROM THE CDC
While the spread of the virus might feel unavoidable, the fact is that good cleaning and disinfection routines can greatly reduce or eliminate the viral count of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, on surfaces and objects in the workplace.
The CDC has provided detailed instructions on how to clean and disinfect workspaces. While the CDC guidance should be read, understood, and followed closely, here are a few key points you should know before you begin:
- Make sure your facility is fully clean, disinfected, and equipped with a blueprint for maintaining safe conditions.
- Always clean before disinfecting. Cleaning with a detergent solution, soap and water, or Vital Oxide removes particles, like dust or dirt, that can carry the virus on surfaces. This reduces the viral load before disinfection begins, which helps the disinfectant to be more effective in killing the remaining virus.
For proper disinfection, use an EPA-registered disinfectant.
- A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available here. Vital Oxide is included on this list, and meets the EPA’s emerging pathogen requirements for viruses showing efficacy against enveloped and non-enveloped viruses, both large and small. Vital Oxide is 100x more powerful than ordinary disinfectants and kills 99.999% of viruses and bacteria, without harsh fumes or harmful residues. When using Vital Oxide to disinfect, there is no need to wear safety gloves, or to rinse after applying. Simply spray Vital Oxide and let air dry.
- To use Vital Oxide to kill SARS-CoV-2, follow label directions for use against Norovirus Feline Calicivirus** and Canine Parvovirus (Strain Cornell-780916, ATCC VR-2016**) on hard, non-porous surfaces.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily, or after each use if using shared equipment (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, shared electronics and equipment, phone receivers and keypads, remotes, handles, touchscreens, desks, toilets, sinks).
- Encourage everyone to keep their desks and workspaces free from clutter so it’s easier to thoroughly clean on a daily basis. In addition, ensure that everyone has their own trash bin at their workspace.
- Remember to never mix cleaning products together.
- Do not ingest or inject cleaning products.
COMMUNICATION AND SIGNAGE IN THE OFFICE
The bright light of effective communication is one of your first and best defenses against the physical and emotional aspects of navigating COVID-19.
For the journey ahead, be prepared to reassure and support employees and coworkers who may be going through a range of emotions and personal challenges as a result of the virus and containment efforts. Some ideas include:
- Communicate in a timely, calm manner.
- Provide clear, concise, and well-worded updates that are relevant to your location, industry, and work culture.
- Keep team communication consistent. Whether your team is still working from home, or if you’re back in the office where it won’t be ideal to have meetings, be sure to have a system for communication. It’s easy for team collaboration to decrease without daily face-to-face interaction, making it that much more critical that communication is prioritized with daily or weekly posts, emails, and video calls. With that said, be mindful of how much time you’re taking out of the workday to check in.
- Create an internal communication channel (Slack is fantastic) to post relevant company updates and offer a channel for support. This will also decrease the need for face-to-face communication in the office.
- Provide signage around the office that will keep everyone mindful of safety: good respiratory hygiene, cleaning recommendations, social distancing, and symptom checks. The CDC has developed a series of printable materials and posters for use in community settings.
- Be supportive and promote a work-life balance for everyone, especially working parents. The pandemic has been incredibly stressful for everyone, and the best thing you can do is to listen, help where you can, and simply offer your support to your employees and coworkers.
BACK IN THE OFFICE? HERE ARE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO KEEP YOUR WORKPLACE SAFE
If you’ve spent time working from home as a preventative measure and you’re getting ready to head back into the office, now is the best time to implement optimal hygiene practices and solutions that can reduce the spread of germs. Here are some actions you can take:
- Educate employees on handwashing hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
- Increase the availability of virus-killing hand sanitizers, and be sure everyone knows how to use them effectively. As an added touch, providing quality unscented lotion around the office will keep everyone from drying out while keeping their hands clean.
- Continue to improve professional cleaning and disinfecting procedures within the office to reduce the occurrence of viruses and bacteria in the workplace.
- Encourage everyone in the office to commit to regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and items with Vital Oxide.
- If flexible seating is an option in your office and people share desks or tables, require everyone to clean equipment, workstations, and surfaces as soon as they leave or move to a different spot.
- Require 6 feet social distancing wherever possible and install barriers where social distancing is not possible.
- Where possible, rely on touch-reducing amenities, such as double-swinging push doors, motion sensor lights, and other hands-free amenities to reduce germs in high-traffic areas.
- Limit deliveries and visitors, including customers and clients.
- Any employee who feels ill should stay home to prevent spreading germs in the office. Consider implementing flexible sick time policies or additional sick leave to accommodate employees who test positive for coronavirus.
Using these guidelines, we hope that you can confidently help your staff navigate the challenges of this global health crisis. Should you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19, you can find more resources provided by the CDC here. Vital Oxide is here to keep your homes and workplaces safe and germ-free. If you have any questions, please get in touch!