How to Stay Safe at Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Despite the growing number of COVID-19 cases, humans can’t stay shut down forever.
But there are safe and unsafe ways to return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow work safety guidelines and do your part in stopping the spread.
Let’s review how to safely return to work during an international health crisis.
Keep Calm & Mask Up
The best tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19 is your face mask. If you plan on working in a pandemic, you better be prepared to mask up at all times.
The novel coronavirus infects people via respiratory droplets that travel through the air. They come from your mouth and nose. Wearing a mask prevents the droplets from entering the air and infecting others.
While this particular strain of coronavirus is new, there is plenty of evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of wearing a mask in stopping the spread. In states where mask mandates were enforced, the daily growth rate of COVID-19 decreased by 0.9% after five days. In three weeks, the spread slowed by 2% per day.
While we are encouraged to stay home when they’re not feeling well, some people exhibit mild COVID-19 symptoms and don’t realize they are spreading a deadly virus.
Masking up in the office protects you, your coworkers, your vendors, and your customers. It’s the most effective way to work in public spaces without putting your health at risk.
Take Some Space
A face mask does not make you invincible. While it can slow down the spread, you also need to be following COVID guidelines and maintaining distance from others when possible.
The most effective way to keep yourself healthy at work is to avoid confined spaces. When around coworkers, maintain physical distances (six feet if possible) while wearing your mask.
But small areas make it difficult to stay spaced out.
Some tips for maintaining physical space when heading back to the office include:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Eating lunch at your desk or outside
- Avoiding crowded common areas (like a break room)
- Not using public transportation
- Limiting the number of people who attend in-person meetings
- Spacing out in the conference rooms (every other chair)
- Not shaking hands with colleagues
Your leadership team should be enforcing social distancing. They can set up break schedules to limit the number of people congregating in staff kitchens and common areas. They should also be restricting the number of people in meetings and conducting business virtually as much as possible.
Disinfect, Disinfect, Disinfect
When returning to work, you need to make sure three important things stay clean to prevent spreading germs:
- Your desk or office station
- Your mask
- Your hands
Returning to work during an international pandemic requires both you and your office managers to do their part in creating a healthy work environment.
While you ensure your workstation, mask, and hands stay clean, your building should be receiving regular deep-cleaning sessions. Company officials who are trained and up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 information can make sure your office remains a virus-free zone.
COVID-19 Hand-Washing Procedure
At this point in the pandemic, most people know the importance of washing and sanitizing their hands. But when you return to work, it’s easy to slip into old habits. Don’t let this happen.
Washing removes potentially harmful pathogens from your skin. Without cleaning your hands, you may accidentally spread those pathogens to the rest of your body by touching your face or rubbing your eyes.
Therefore, when in doubt, wash your hands.
The CDC recommends washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Healthcare, food industry workers, and salon employees should get into the habit of washing their hands at least every 30 minutes.
If you cannot wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol.
Cleaning Your Face Mask
Returning to the office requires wearing a face mask. Investing in a few cloth face masks is a cheaper and more sustainable way to stop the spread of COVID-19. But keep your masks clean.
The CDC recommends people wash their masks after each use. If you’re heading back to the office multiple days per week, have a few different masks that you can rotate.
Cloth face masks can be washed by hand, but most are machine-washable. You can toss the mask in with the rest of your laundry without any problem. If you choose to handwash your mask, soak it in warm water and bleach for at least five minutes before rinsing.
The outside of your mask catches germs, which is why it needs to be frequently washed. Keeping a clean face mask can also reduce irritation (like maskne) on your skin.
Sanitizing Your Work Area
Cleaners may be sterilizing your building, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure your personal workspace is disinfected.
When sanitizing your work area, the CDC recommends:
- Wearing disposable gloves
- Wiping surfaces with soap and water before using a disinfectant
- Not mixing chemical cleaners or solutions (the combination could reduce effectiveness)
Take a few minutes at the end of the workday to wipe down the area you work in and any tools you commonly touch (such as computer screens, mousepads, and keyboards).
Speak up About Concerns
COVID safety protocols only work if everyone adheres to them. One person without a mask can be the reason for an office-wide outbreak.
If you see something that doesn’t seem safe, politely bring it up. Many people subconsciously touch their face or speak closely to others without realizing the health risks involved. One conversation can go a long way in stopping the spread.
Don’t be afraid to speak up to management when you see others breaking the rules. No, you’re not a snitch. You’re a responsible colleague who doesn’t want their office to get shut down.
More on How the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Changing the World
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing how we do business and conduct ourselves in the office. If you want to physically return to work, you and your colleagues must follow safety protocols.
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