COVID-19: Worthy guidelines for managing workplace

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The virus has reached Indian shores and businesses must start taking workers' health, wellness and productivity on a serious note

With WHO declaring the global outbreak a pandemic, citing “alarming level of spread and inaction” and the total number of novel coronavirus cases in India touching 60, it is high time for start-ups and entrepreneurs to re-evaluate employee welfare and jump into taking immediate, necessary precautions to ensure safety of employees at the workplace.

In addition to limiting the exposure of the employers to the new strain of the virus, the top brass and the entrepreneurs must ensure that the protecting guidelines are clearly reflected at the workplace to avoid any non-desirable outcomes in the containment phase of tackling the unforeseen attack.
 
Are your employees functioning in a glass-walled huddle zone? Or, sustaining in a dense combination at one particular room? Then pay close attention to the notoriously cramped condition of the workplace environment because – overcrowding, poor ventilation, bad quality hygiene and frequent movement can create a ‘perfect storm’ of disease transmission between employees. 

Apart from low hygiene, many health facilitators have also warned that the low staffing level where there is an accommodation of more people than they are designed to hold at the workplace can be extremely vulnerable to the disease and can have a great potential to become – “center for spreading the deadly virus in the community”. 

Thus, this infectious disease flourishes in crowded conditions and has a potential to spread like wildfire.
 
The coronavirus case identified in Wuhan, China, has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). It was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV’ earlier.  “COVID-19 is still affecting people in China along with outbreaks in 70 other countries. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others,” says the World Health Organization.
 
Unfortunately, the deadly virus has reached our shores and thus companies must start taking workers’ health, wellness and productivity on a serious note. It is imperative for each company in India to train and educate their workforce on hygienic practice and avoid the transmission of the virus.
 
Here are 9 guides for Managing Workplace and team amid the coronavirus panic.
 
We need to be well prepared intricately to tackle the looming phenomenon – Covid-19  – “Socially”, “physically” and “psychologically”
 
1. Ask your employees to Practice one hand distance while talking to your colleagues –  Just like school days, We used to stand for the morning assembly, keeping a ‘one-hand-distance’ ; the same way while speaking or interaction with your colleague, avoid getting to close and maintain cordial one-hand distance while for any comprehension or queries. 

Restrict upon “NO Handshake” and practice “Hello”,“NAMASTE or SALAM” from a great distance.
 
2. Ask your employees to practice sneezing and coughing etiquette- According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)- considering how similar viruses spread, people infected with covid-19 may be spreading the virus through respiratory secretions when they cough or sneeze. As per the agency, there is much more to learn and research about the process transmissibility, severity and other cascading features of coronavirus (Covid-19) as the investigation of the outbreak continues.
 
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the US agency charged with tracking and investigating public health trends, noted that previous outbreaks of coronavirus have spread through close contact with people who are infected with covid-19. 

“A critical time to practice good hygiene etiquette is when you are sick, especially when coughing or sneezing.”
 
To help prevent the spread of germs, the CDC recommends:

■     Avoiding coughing or sneezing into your hands.
■     Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
■     Putting used tissue in a wastebasket.

3.     Clean your Workplace desk or Workstation often –  Appoint housekeeping staff to routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as keyboards, remote controls, desks, counter-tops and doorknobs.

OK! The major question arises – Will regular cleaning products kill the bug? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specified – coronaviruses are among “the easiest to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product.” But the EPA noted that emerging viral pathogens are less common and predictable than established pathogens, so few EPA-registered disinfectant products specifically target them. Credible products may not yet carry a label promising to kill COVID-19.

CDC suggests using the hybrid cleaning agents that are typically used to clean the work surface, doorknobs and countertops and to follow the direction of the cleanliness in every span of 3 hours. The agency also recommended that the employers provide disposable wipes so that workers can easily wipe down commonly used surfaces.

However, “the best practice is to maintain a good distance to avoid spreading the germs”, the CDC said.

4. Ask your employees to put on the face mask at the workplace – As the coronavirus spreads at an alarming rate across the globe, many experts suggest that masks will keep them safe.

– If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
–  Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
–  Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
–  If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
(Suggests WHO)

 “WHO also advises rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious resources and misuse of masks. Use a mask only if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing), have a suspected Covid-19 infection with mild symptoms, or are caring for someone with suspected Covid-19 infection. 

“A suspected Covid-19 infection is linked to travel in areas where cases have been reported or close contact with someone who has travelled in these areas and has become ill.”

5. Promote hygienic washroom practice – Cleaning, washing and sanitizing the toilets of the workplace hourly can promote hygiene and cleanliness at workplace. Surfaces and objects of the toilet must be wiped with a disinfectant because contaminated surfaces are one of the main ways that the virus spread.

6. Disseminating tissues, dustbin and pocket sanitizers to the employees – Alcohol based – hand sanitizers, dustbin and tissues must be kept at every workplace desk is one of the authentic ways to promote hygiene and tackling the virus.

7. Hygienic office canteen – Train office boy, kitchen helpers or canteen managers to ensure high-degree of personal food hygiene and promote a strict cleanliness practice and wearing masks and hand gloves while distributing food. Avoid raw meat, eggs and fishes in the canteen and serve food which is hot and thoroughly cooked.

8. Ask your employees to avoid “coranxiety” – Ask your employees to “catch the hope against hope and be prepared like a warrior”. The fear of coronavirus, medically now termed ‘coranxiety’, has become so huge that it has led to the spread of hoax news and fake resources, especially on social media platforms. 

The number of forwards and posts on WhatsApp, Facebook, and other social media platforms is increasing with the increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. It is best to follow the guidelines given from the reputed experts and agencies worldwide. 

9. Basics First – Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many outer surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can easily transfer the virus into your eyes, nose or mouth.
–         If your employees have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, ask them to stay home and seek medical care early
–         Ask your employees to cover the mouth and nose with their bent elbow or tissue when they cough or sneeze and dispose the tissues immediately after the use.
–         Ask pregnant women to stay and work from home. In the worst case scenario, suggest your other employees to stay and work from home.

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