The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the workplace. While infections continue to rise in many regions of the world, other countries are working to keep rates low and restart their economies. By ensuring a safe return to work guidelines, governments, employers, and workers, as well as their respective organizations may assist to reinforce the progress made in lowering infection rates. This needs coordinated action from all parties, as carelessness during the time of a viral outbreak poses a health risk, emphasizing the need for a “return to work safely” protocol. As an employee returning to the office, here is a return-to-work guide for employees, which include the new norms you can practise to keep yourself and those around you safe from infection.
Reduce occupational exposure
Being a shared space, the office can be a hotbed of exposure to germs and viruses from varied sources. These can stem from:
· Shared devices – computers, phones, walkie-talkies, etc.
· Exposure to clients/public.
Try to avoid coming into contact with shared devices and minimalize contact with clients and the public. If this is not possible, make sure that you sanitize devices before use, wear a mask at all times when interacting with clients/ the public, and conscientiously sanitize your hands. Regular sanitisation and disinfection of common work areas should be encouraged.
It goes without saying that during a viral epidemic, cleaning and sanitizing yourself and your surroundings remain the utmost priority. Here are some ways you can enhance personal sanitation and disinfection:
· Carry sanitizing supplies – soap, alcohol-based sanitizer, wet wipes, etc.
· Wash hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.
· Wipe down surfaces that are always touched.
· Practise sanitizing your workstation regularly.
Maintain social distancing
While it is understandable that being away from your colleagues for quite some time pre-empts the tendency to catch up what is going on in each other’s lives, there are ways to do so that reduces your exposure to the virus, such as using physical barriers in the workplace. Practise these tips as much as possible:
· Avoid congregating for a chat at the coffee machine/lounge/etc.
· Maintain a six-feet distance from everyone at all times.
· Restrict movement as much as possible in enclosed/small spaces.
Always check yourself
Being in the midst of an epidemic means that you are at risk of exposure anytime. Keep vigilant and regularly use saliva test kits or nasal swab test kits to ensure you’re in the clear. Always:
· Be aware of the signs/symptoms of COVID-19.
· Stay at home if you are feeling unwell.
· Use Rapid Test Kits to test yourself regularly.
Adapt to new norms
It is time to face that things are not going to go back to normal anytime soon and adapting to new norms would help you go about your daily life again.
· Take things online as much as possible.
· Use masks when not at your station, or always if your shared workspace doesn’t have barriers.
· If allowed to, work from home as much as possible.
Remember, if you are tested positive, be responsible. Stay in isolation and quarantine yourself to a room, if possible, in order to contain the virus from spreading everywhere.
Going back to the office amidst an epidemic can be quite risky, especially with a virus like COVID-19. However, it is not impossible to protect yourself against it when proper safety protocols are followed, and SOPs adhered to strictly. Collective responsibility leads to collective action, which in turn ensures collective well-being. All workplaces now have return to office guidelines in place to protect all their employees – follow these back to work guidelines to ensure your safety as well as the safety of those around you.
Practicing these tips to ensure good health at all times is always the best choice. However, in these unprecedented times, it is wise to get coverage for hospitalisation costs. You wouldn’t want to be caught unawares and short of cash when you are in a vulnerable state. Singlife’s Cash for Medical Costs offers plans with coverage benefits for up to Php 1,275,000 for illnesses such as COVID-19 and others.