Coronavirus (Covid-19) – A Handy Preparedness Guide for Workplaces
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus or Covid-19 a pandemic. The government of New Zealand is advising some basic measures to tackle the spread. This means workplaces should also gear-up to face this challenge and help prevent its spread.
Here are some measures workplaces and employees can adopt to help tackle this latest pandemic:
- Basic Hygiene:
This is an aspect of prevention that cannot be stressed enough. Being mindful of the basic good habits will go a long way in protecting you from infection. Wash your hands with soap and water (for 20 seconds at least), avoid touching your face, sneeze or cough in your elbow, carry a hand sanitiser when you step out, and discard used tissues in the bin. Companies should encourage good hygiene using prominent signage and communication throughout the office.
- Disinfect Work Surfaces:
The latest findings suggest the coronavirus can remain on steel and plastic surfaces for up to 3 days, and in the air for 3 hours. Work desks, chairs, doorknobs, etc. should be wiped down with a disinfectant regularly throughout the day. Hand sanitisers should be placed in prominent places around the workplace for employees to clean their hands. Offices should have good ventilation, preventing the recirculation of air if possible.
- Encourage Self-quarantine:
Person-to-person transmission is the biggest risk with Covid-19. Offices should encourage employees who are feeling sick or showing signs indicating an infection to work from home. Dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath are common symptoms of the coronavirus. If you are feeling unwell, the responsible thing to do would be to self-quarantine and stay at home until you feel better. You should also seek medical help (Healthline number: 0800 358 5453) if you have the above symptoms.
- Avoid Travel:
Given the Covid-19 pandemic, the New Zealand government has issued travel restrictions for several countries. If you are planning an international work trip, it is best to reconsider it at the moment. The health ministry has recommended self-isolation for 14 days for residents traveling back from high-risk countries like China and Iran. You can call the helpline if you have any concerns or are showing symptoms.
- Minimize Physical Contact:
You may need to implement measures to encourage social distancing. For instance, if daily meetings were a norm, you can consider switching to a virtual set-up. Increasing distances between co-workers should also help. This means placing work stations further apart. You should consider the worst-case scenario and prepare for a remote work strategy. It might be best to do away with, at least temporarily, social etiquettes like shaking hands during interactions. Needless to say, group assemblies, gatherings, etc. should be avoided whenever possible.
- Mental wellbeing:
Lastly, alarming news updates and discussion of coronavirus, self-isolation, and working from home, can lead to feelings of distress, stress, and anxiety. Mental health and wellbeing are equally important, and employees should be encouraged to talk about how they are feeling to their usual supports like friends, family members, co-workers, GP, company counsellor, etc.
Minimising the spread of the disease will require a herculean effort on all fronts, including businesses. Workplaces have a special responsibility towards their employees that includes their physical and mental wellbeing in times of public health crisis. By following prescribed guidelines and implementing effective policies, you can play your part in tackling the Covid-19 threat.
You can visit the dedicated page set up by the New Zealand Ministry of Health for the latest updates on Covid-19, travel advisories, links to resources, etc.