By Stella Ryne
Who would have thought that going back to work would be such a relief? But do you feel safe going back to the workplace? Is there a fear that your workplace is not clean and safe and enough?
The unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 has forced us all to put our whole lives on hold for a little while and take a break. It has also forced us to rethink our hygiene and the hygiene of all the surfaces we touch, including our workplaces.
All of a sudden, we see the world through a very different lens and we can’t help but wonder how many people will we come in contact with, we’ll we be able to avoid unnecessary contact, should we wear gloves and masks, and so on.
Now, we are slowly returning to what used to be normal and businesses and employers are confronted with different kinds of challenges of returning their employees to work in a safe manner that will ensure the productive continuation of their business.
Before ever allowing employees to get back to work, each business and employer must ensure that the work environment is clean and safe. They also need to improve hygiene and bring additional safety measures. Hygiene was important even before the COVID-19 outbreak, but now it is even more so if it will help contain another COVID-19 outbreak or an outbreak of any other illness for that matter.
Let’s see a couple of different ways to improve workplace hygiene.
1. Keep the air fresh and clean and install air purifiers
With so much information and even more misinformation regarding coronavirus, it’s difficult to keep up with what is true and what is not. At first, all we could hear is that coronavirus is airborne transmitted. Later, this information was said to be false and that the virus is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact.
Regardless of this all, the best thing that we can do is keep the air in the workplace fresh and clean. So, it’s highly recommended to improve the airflow to get rid of stuffy air and improve air quality. If your workspace has windows, make sure you have them open so that air can circulate freely. Another way to improve the air in the workplace is by installing air purifiers.
While air purifiers won’t necessarily protect you from viruses, they can remove harmful particles such as allergens, mold, and smoke from indoor places. So, start by providing fresh and clean air for your employees if you haven’t already.
2. Install hand sanitizers and promote hand hygiene
Many offices already had hand sanitizers installed but only in washrooms. With this virus outbreak, we were made aware that our hand hygiene wasn’t ideal. So, in order to improve hand hygiene in the workplace, think about installing hand sanitizers throughout different areas of the office – at the entrances/exits, corridors in visible places available for employees or clients to use whenever they feel like it.
By installing hand sanitizers, hand dryers, by making tissues and hand towels, clean wipes available to your employees you are also promoting hand hygiene. You are silently reminding your employees to wash their hands and take care of the hygiene.
3. Set up cleaning schedules
Keeping the air fresh and crisp, and installing hand sanitizers is all nice and dandy, but it won’t matter much if the environment is not clean enough. Offices and workplaces are highly frequented places meaning that a lot of people come and go, and they should be cleaned accordingly.
You, as an employer, should set up cleaning schedules and make sure that they are actually being implemented. Each employee should clean their own workstation at the end of the day, floors should be wiped often – you could invest in high-quality indoor mats that will remove dirt from the shoes before it gets all over the floors.
Difficult to reach places should also be taken care of regularly so that they don’t become dust collectors. Clean windows, dispose of garbage as often as possible, simply keep the workplace clean.
This will not only reduce the possibility of any illness development but it will also give a sense of professionalism and that you care about the well-being of your employees.
4. Sick days
It’s highly important to brief your employees, contractors, clients, and costumers that if they have a cough, fever, or anything else, they should stay at home. Taking sick days is important and even recommended. We don’t know yet how coronavirus can be transmitted, but regardless of COVID-19, with every illness, you risk infecting your colleagues.
Additionally, a sick person is not a productive or efficient person. Allowing sick days will ultimately help those who are sick recover faster and it will contain further spreading of the illness.
5. Designate smoking and eating areas
Usually, each office or workplace is supposed to have designated smoking and eating areas. Cigarette smoke is not something that everyone enjoys, some people even find it offensive. It’s even been proven that cigarette smoke can cause headaches which can then cause distraction.
Designating smoking areas is the best way to deal with these problems. That way those who smoke won’t cause problems with non-smokers, they also won’t be polluting the air and won’t cause smells to spread throughout the workplace.
Similarly, opening canteens and eating areas will reduce the chance of spilling food and drinks in the workplace, it will reduce food smells from spreading throughout the whole workspace.
By designating these areas you’re making sure that everything works without interruptions and that the workplace stays clean.
6. Protective clothing
Protective clothing, equipment or footwear is key in some jobs. This is why all employers should provide and make sure that the said protective gear is in good condition. In case there is damage to the protective gear the employer is required to replace it with the new one.
By having protective gear you are lessening the risk of injury, illness, and legal problems and you are ensuring that the working environment is safe.
7. Keep track of hygiene practices
One way to ensure that the hygiene practices are being followed is to keep track of them and to often evaluate their benefits. Employers need to talk about hygiene measures with their employees. They need to evaluate every hygiene measure taken and to ask for feedback from the employees.
By engaging and involving employees in this process you will make them want to take better care of workplace hygiene. They will put more effort into doing their part of maintaining their workplace clean and safe.
If employees offer suggestions regarding workplace hygiene improvement, be sure to listen to them and acknowledge and even implement their suggestions. This way they will know that you value their opinion and that will make them want to participate in the cleaning and organizing their workspace even more.
Bottom line is that this COVID-19 outbreak has forced us to evaluate our hygiene practices in the workplace. The workplace hygiene must be taken seriously because if just one person fails to follow the regulations the whole community will suffer the consequences.
This is something that should have been known even before this recent outbreak. It’s no secret that the clean environment is more productive. There are fewer chances of illness or sickness spreading.
There are many benefits to keeping the workplace clean and organized. Don’t impose any rules on your employees, but make them see these benefits. Educate them on how to do their part in keeping the workplace environment safe and clean.
Also, keep in mind that coming back to work after this COVID-19 pandemic will be a process. Many employees will be hesitant about going back to work. Your job as an employer is to reassure them and to make them see that the workplace that they are coming to is clean and safe. And also that for it to remain so, they will all need to put some effort.
Remind them that we’re all in this together and that we all depend on each other. Tell them that taking sick days is highly recommended if they don’t feel well.
All we can do now is hope that if nothing else, this pandemic has taught us how to properly take care of our overall hygiene.