This year’s Covid outbreak has felt like an ongoing battle and one which is filled with uncertainty. As the world learns how to deal with the ongoing pandemic, many businesses and companies are slowly starting to get their employees back into the workplace after months of working from home.
Whilst working from home is highly recommended, a lot of workplaces simply can’t operate or function as well with remote workers. It is important that, if your workplace is returning to the workplace, you have a clear strategy in place on how best to deal with a potential Covid outbreak, or reports of one or more workers having to isolate.
A lot of businesses are struggling to make it to the end of the year thanks to the issues that Covid has brought, so if your business is in the position to reopen safely, then, of course, this is the route you are going to take. However, it is vital that your workplace is safe to reopen and you operate moving forward with your employee’s health and wellbeing in mind.
Dealing with a potential Covid outbreak isn’t ideal, but by having the right steps in place to quickly and safely deal with it, you will likely be able to continue operations. With that in mind, here are some things to do when managing a Covid outbreak in your workplace.
Be sympathetic towards your Employees
If you are planning to reopen your workplace after a long period of working from home, then you need to be especially sympathetic towards your employees. Whilst some may be keen to return back to some kind of normality, others may be feeling much more anxious about mixing with multiple people a day again.
Covid is still relatively new and unknown and this brings its own set of challenges, but if you know some employees are a little nervous about returning to work, you need to try and reassure them that your workplace is a safe environment and everyone is doing their part to maintain that it is safe. A lot of people’s mental health has taken a hit this year, so it is important that you know how to properly support them.
If an employee lets you know that they have Covid symptoms, then this is another situation where you need to show empathy. Even if they have mild symptoms, they will likely be worried about what could happen, or if they have spread it to coworkers or their family members. Let them know that you understand and talk with them for a while.
They will likely be concerned about their work, income, family members and themselves. Let them know what the next steps are and, if they are in the office, ensure that they return home as soon as possible. It is highly likely that they will be unable to return to work for a few weeks, or if they want to continue working from home, that you realise their productivity may be down for a little while.
If you have a confirmed case of Covid in your workplace, it is so important that you act quickly. Talk with your partners or HR and make sure that you all know what is happening. You need to act quickly from this point to ensure that you keep the risk of the disease spreading to an absolute minimum. Speak with the employee which coworkers they may have been in close contact with over the past two weeks – health organisations state that “close contact” is someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected employee for an extended period of time.
If your workplace has been working from home for the past few weeks, then this is unlikely, but you should still ask if there has been any contact between coworkers. If there are employees who have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive, then you need to inform them as soon as possible so that they can begin isolating at home and try to avoid revealing the identity of the employee who had a positive result.
Follow up any conversations you have with them with an email and just reiterate what you have already said with very clear instructions to stay at home and offer them any support and reassurance.
Consider a deep clean
If the infected employee has been frequenting the office and has come into close contact with other employees, then you may wish to consider a deep clean of the workplace. Whether you’re an office space or warehouse, your workplace may be putting other employees at risk, so you need to make this decision sooner rather than later.
There are some great specialist cleaning services available who are experienced with deep cleans, especially after a Covid outbreak. Good companies will help you to plan and carry out a full decontamination, but it is likely that your premises will have to be closed for a short period of time, both before, during and after the clean.
If you plan on carrying out a deep clean, then you must let all other employees know so that they are aware that they need to work from home for the next few days. It may be worth asking the cleaning company if they have any tips or recommendations you can use for your business moving forward.
Look at the safety precautions in your workplace
Whether you’ve just reopened the workplace or have remained open during the outbreak, it’s likely that you had to implement some safety measures in the workplace to ensure the safety of your employees and to make sure you are adhering to current government regulations and guidelines. Following reports of an outbreak or positive cases, it might be worth revisiting the steps you have already taken and see if there are any further improvements you can make to making the workplace Covid secure.
Ensure that your employees can social distance properly in the workplace and that desks, printers or shared appliances are all adequate distance apart from one another. Does your business have a one-way system in place, or staggered start and finishing times? If not, this could be another way you can limit the close contact between employees.
Identify touch hotspots around the workplace, such as elevator buttons, door handles, light switches, buttons, handrails, etc. and ensure these are cleaner regularly, around twice an hour, with a disinfectant. You might want to involve sanitiser stations around the office and ensure employees have facemasks and their own 70% alcohol sanitiser, but also relay the message of frequent handwashing.