Safe return to workplace

The new year has had a promising start. The Covid vaccine campaigns being run in most parts of the world promises a way out of this pandemic. It also means businesses need to brace up for opening their doors once again. However, it will require adequate planning and elaborate measures to assure the employees to return to the workplace which is safe.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has come up with a comprehensive and detailed guideline regarding how the workplaces can become safe again and be ready to welcome back the employees whenever that happens. This article borrows heavily from the guidelines issued by ILO.

There are stages in which the safety and hygiene needs to be practiced.

  1. Before entering the workplace

  2. At the workplace

  3. Leaving the workplace

ILO has been thorough in pointing out personal hygiene and safety measures that need to be observed from the very beginning. Even going ahead and pointing out the basic that the employees suffering from cold, cough, runny nose etc should stay home and take proper help.

The following are the guidelines to be considered before entering the workplace:

  1. Employees should be discouraged from taking public transport

  2. People living at short distances from workplace should be encouraged to walk or ride a bike to work

  3. The organizations may consider providing transport facilities to their employees if not providing already

  4. If the transport is provided by the organization, the frequency of plying between routes should be increased to avoid too many people travelling together

  5. The rear doors should be used for entry and exit

  6. The transport ace points should not be crowded

  7. The vehicle need to be cleaned frequently at the beginning and end of the day

  8. The driver needs to be separated from the passengers through shields or screens

  9. Availability of face masks and hand sanitizer within the vehicles

  10. And off course following minimum distance between passengers which means blocking a few seats to follow social distancing

  11. Before entering the workplace, screening by qualified individuals need to be performed

At the workplace:

  1. The sitting arrangements or the workstations and bays need to be rearranged to follow social distancing rules. Ribbons or stickers can be used to demarcate the minimum separation needed

  2. Bathroom and changing rooms need to be cleaned more frequently with urinals, sinks and wah basins etc separated

  3. Liquid soap wash instead of bars and paper towels instead of hand dryers etc need to be provided

  4. Canteen or common eating or dining areas need to be cleaned while ensuring it is never crowded

  5. Food should be prepacked and grab and go rather than a buffet or sit-down eating

  6. Instructions and guidelines in the form of posters and notice should be put up

  7. Snack dispensing machines and coffee and tea machines etc need to be cleaned more frequently

  8. Sharing workplace tools should be discouraged

  9. Use of elevators should be discouraged

  10. Narrow stairs should have a one-way rule

  11. Meetings should be virtual and no get togethers in conference rooms for official meetings or celebrations etc should be avoided

Leaving the workplace:

  1. Employees should be encouraged to wash their hands before exiting

  2. Exit timings should be spread out so that there is no congestion

  3. Employee need to be reminded to practice proper hygiene and safety once they reach home

Suppliers and clients need to be managed as well. A proper safety protocol needs to be created for any outsider coming into the office premises. Reception of goods, loading, unloading, setting up mobile toilets for outsiders so that they do not enter the office building, hand washing, and safe distancing are some of the other measures to consider. Electronic payments and contactless dropping point for parcels and couriers can be practiced ensuring minimum contact with outsider visiting the office premises.

Customer and clients should be treated as outsiders and caution needs to be the guiding factor to determine how safe it is for them to visit the premises. Technology can be used to conduct most of the meetings and transactions thus eliminating the need to be physically present to get the work done.

The organizations can also identify the vulnerable section of their workforce and reassign them options like teleworking, if possible or better safety measures, screening, and test help if not.

In addition to the above, the mental health and the toll it has taken on the employees cannot and should not be ignored. It is advisable for the organizations to organize proper help and support, updating policies if required to ensure that the employees returning to work get the help if they need.

A top down approach of compassionate leadership with people at the center of the policy and process will ensure that when the businesses take their first steps towards recovery it will be sustainable.

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Workplace Efficiency