“Office during a Pandemic? Is that even possible?”
“Aren’t you scared of coronavirus?”
“You should leave your job.”
If you are a working professional in India, there’s a high chance you’ve heard one of the above three.
And for good reason too!
The Coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc over the world. It has disrupted businesses, industries and life itself.
A virus that has affected over 8.5 million people across the globe and taken the lives of over 4.5 thousand people, the COVID-19 virus has affected every individual out there – the student, the housewife, the working professional, the migrant labourer, the unemployed and the senior citizen.
Most sectors have been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Layoffs and unpaid leaves are what plagues the working population.
The R is the average number of people someone infected with Covid-19 passes the virus on to. If it is greater than 1.0 the epidemic will grow exponentially. If it is less than 1.0 it will eventually disappear.
For the coronavirus, the R comes at an alarming 4.0 or more.
The World Health Organisation released a list of COVID-19 workplace guidelines that individuals and governments could adopt to help battle the virus. The most important ones were:
Use of masks: The coronavirus was found to enter our bodies through openings. Thus, the logical step would be to wear a good quality mask to reduce the chances of infection through our mouth and nose. Touching your mouth, nose and eyes were also prohibited as this could mean transferring the virus from any surface our hand’s touch to our face.
20-second Hand Wash: The next step to prevent the spread of coronavirus is to regularly wash your hands with soap for a good 20 minutes at regular intervals. This also helps reduce the chances of infection.
Social Distancing: If there ever was a word of the year, it would be this. Limiting face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Social distancing means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. To practice social or physical distancing stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
Social Distancing is one of the best tools available to us to avoid being exposed to this virus and slowing its spread locally and across the country and world.
People can be infected even before they show symptoms or in many cases, they might not show symptoms at all.
In that case, it becomes difficult to pinpoint who has the infection and who does not. Therefore, the safest way is to maintain social distancing from everyone.
A combination of these three steps goes a long way in ensuring that you keep yourself and others around you healthy and safe.
India went into lockdown on the 25th of March. This meant that all travelling was prohibited and naturally, this included working at office premises.
Most companies adopted the Work From Home model, where employees stayed at home to work.
However, the WFH model of work is feasible for job roles that need the employee, an Internet connection and a computer. For most employees who don’t depend on a computer for their work, they were either laid off from work or retained with unpaid leave.
The Work From Home model of work comes with a plethora of obvious benefits, both for the employee and the employee. But all that glitters is not gold.
Many people do not have a proper computer with a decent Internet connection. This leads to interruptions and inefficient work quality.
The home is not the best place to work in. The reason is the high level of distraction.
Teamwork is an important social skill that is honed in the office. No home can replace that.
These are some of the more obvious reasons why companies and even employees would prefer to get back to the office as soon as possible.
But in the age of the coronavirus, how is it possible?
Do you need to choose between health and work?
You need to move ahead with both.
Do I hear you asking how?
Don’t worry, we’ll get there right away.
With the advent of Unlock 1.0, India is opening slowly but surely. Businesses are reopening gradually and working professionals are slowly coming back to the office.
The World Health Organisation has stated COVID-19 workplace guidelines for workplaces to follow that will ensure that both employees and employers work in the best ambience possible while protecting themselves from the coronavirus.
Let’s have a look at the COVID-19 workplace guidelines.
Keep your workstation clean
You should do this even when there’s no global pandemic looming over you.
Your workstation is the space where you work and includes objects that you’re in regular contact with.
Objects such as laptops, desks, mouse, telephones and other stationery are common items of daily use that should be disinfected regularly using alcohol-based sanitizers.
Pro tip: Start carrying your own stationery instead of depending on office supplies.
Use Disposable Wipes
This is a very important point in the list of COVID-19 workplace guidelines.
The coronavirus can settle on surfaces and touching these surfaces can prove lethal if they find their way into your mouth, nose and eyes.
It is also important that you do not reuse these wipes.
Pro tip: Wear gloves to the office.
Carry hand sanitizers and hand rubs
Hand sanitizers and hand rubs were used by a very small proportion of the urban population.
However, at the start of the pandemic, people flocked to medical stores to stock up on hand sanitizers, so much that the supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizers ran out and people started making them own.
You must have heard about the 20-second handwash tip to reduce the chances of infection.
That is definitely the best method of keeping your hands clean. However, in a public place like an office, it is not practically possible to visit the washroom now and then for a 20-second handwash.
The soap and water handwash becomes even less feasible when you’re travelling to and from the office.
This is where hand sanitizers and hand rubs come in. They are the next best thing after the regular soap and water handwashing.
Using a hand sanitizer with over 60% of alcohol content reduces your chances of infection by over 99%.
Pro tip: Use one every 30 minutes.
Maintain Social Distancing
Yes, Social Distancing is not to be maintained outdoors but within office premises too.
In the workplace, you should maintain a 2-metre distance from others. Since it is very difficult to know if someone is infected or not, the best practice is to assume everyone is.
Prevention is always better than cure.
Pro Tip: Try communicating through calls and emails even while in office.
Masks>>Suit and Tie
The mask is the new fashion statement of 2020 and an integral part of COVID-19 workplace guidelines.
It’s time to include a mask and protective eyewear in your everyday office look. Wear them even while in office.
When two people wear masks, it reduces the chances of infection to 1.5% as opposed to a 90% chance of infection when two people are not wearing masks.
Buying an N95 mask that covers both your mouth and nose along with some form of protective eyewear is one of your best weapons in the fight against the coronavirus.
Pro Tip: Use a face shield over your mask as it further reduces the chances of infection due to the coronavirus.
If you follow the above COVID-19 workplace guidelines religiously, then you’re more than well equipped to fight the coronavirus at your office.
However, despite these safety measures and COVID-19 workplace guidelines, it is still advisable to stay at home for as long as possible. You need to be lucky every time. The virus needs to be lucky only once.
The best shot that we, as a race, have in defeating the coronavirus, is through self-isolation.
We shall get through this together.
If you want to know more about COVID-19 workplace guidelines in the office, contact us at www.workstreet.in.