Coronavirus In Workplace: Steps To Safeguard Employees

3 min read

Ananya Bhattacharjee
Writer. Musician. Mother. Reading, music and travelling are all time favourites. Been into ‘writing’ from the last 10 years and have become an everlasting love since I started.

SARS-CoV-2 or Coronavirus is the new strain of viruses that originated in Wuhan district of China and spread to countries across the world. The disease associated with Coronavirus is called COVID-19. Though animals, predominantly bats are the source of Coronavirus, the outbreak now has human to human transmission. The outbreak which has affected more than 1,00,000 people across the world have been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Coronavirus outbreak has forced many organizations and offices to direct their employees to work from home. Schools, colleges, universities and offices have been closed down in many parts of the globe, and people have to continue working from the safety of their homes until further direction. This precaution is taken to prevent further spread of the disease and the virus among people.

Coronavirus is seen to be transmitted among humans via respiratory droplets when people sneeze, cough, or exhale. The virus can survive for several hours on surfaces like tables and door handles. The symptoms of the disease include fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, muscle pain and tiredness. More severe cases of the disease include pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, a septic shock which can further lead to death. 

Workplaces are a potential place where the virus can spread rapidly among employees and staff. As workplaces include huge gatherings and close contact with among the people, Coronavirus would find a potential ground for affecting the large sum of people. To combat the spread of Coronavirus and negative emotions and rumours associated with it, employers need to conduct an open dialogue with the employees about the virus, symptoms, preventive measures and the potential impact it will have on the organization. Employers and organization should take the following steps to prevent Coronavirus among the employees:

Encourage Regular Hand-Washing

The best way to prevent the spread of the virus transmission is to wash hands regularly and avoid touching mouth, eyes or nose. Employers can issue directions for the employees to take these measures. Offices can place signboards with the instructions around the building, especially near the bathroom and canteens to remind employees about the hand wash. Organizations should also provide hand sanitizers and hand wash facilities in workplaces.

Employers can also provide resources and encourage a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. In addition to hand wash facilities, organizations can provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 per cent alcohol, disinfectants to promote a safe working environment.

Engage Routine Environmental Cleaning

It is necessary to routinely clean and disinfect the workplace to prevent contamination. Workplaces have several tables, cupboards, doorknobs and furniture which may contain droplets of the virus if a contaminated person sneezes or coughs. This would lead to transmitting the disease to other people as well. As such, it is essential to regularly disinfect workplaces and initiate the workers to use cleaning agents and disposable wipes to frequently clean used surfaces before each use.

Encourage Employees to Work from Home

Employees with symptoms of fever, cold, cough, running nose, acute respiratory illness or other symptoms should be directed to stay home and not attend work until they are free of the symptoms. The best the employers can do at this time is to ensure that the sick leave policies of the affected employees be made flexible and consistent with public health guidance. Organizations should also make the employees aware of the public health guidance and the revised policies according to that guide.

In addition to the sick employees, it is also essential that organizations allow all employees to work from home to ensure proper prevention of Coronavirus. Social distancing is the key; employers should facilitate virtual meetings, video conferences and voice calls over personal meets. This would provide a decrease in transmission and risk of the disease. In case there is an in-person meeting, it is essential to establish a no-handshake policy. 

Talk with Employees about Travel

Unless travel is crucial, organizations should forbid employees from travelling. It is essential to not travel to areas which are profoundly affected to avoid employees contracting the disease. Employees should be advised to check for health notices before their travel. In case an employee is travelling, the employers should ensure that the workers check themselves for possible symptoms of Coronavirus to prevent infecting others with the disease.

Share Objectives with Employees

Employers need to share objectives and plans with their employees as to how they can best decrease the spread of Coronavirus and lower the impact of the disease in their workplace. The procedures and objectives should be directed at the following:

  • reducing virus transmission among the staff
  • protect the employees who are at a higher risk for any health complications and symptoms
  • maintaining regular business operations
  • minimizing adverse effects on subordinate entities

Prepare for Worksite Closures

If a workplace or a work site needs to be closed down temporarily, it is essential to ensure that the employees understand corporate policies that associate with pay and benefits. This will give relief to the workers who are concerned about their jobs and financial security.

Cancel Conferences

Across the globe, many leading companies are cancelling and rescheduling conferences or shifting to digital conferencing to avoid the spread of Coronavirus- it is an important step too. The organizations should stay in regular contact with local health departments and prepare a backup plan for the cancelled conferences. In case of a green signal to the conference, organizations should provide efficient hand sanitizer and handwashing facilities and implement a no-handshake policy. 

The organizations and employers need to establish an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, which will provide protective actions against COVID-19. To reduce the impact of Coronavirus outbreak on businesses, employees and workplaces, offices need to plan now for COVID-19. Lack of continuity planning against the disease can result in a cascade of failures as offices would attempt to address the severity of Coronavirus with insufficient resources.