The COVID-19 pandemic is changing how companies think about the workplace and its role and requirements both in the short term as we return to work and in the future. To address organizations’ immediate and imminent needs during this constantly changing crisis, businesses must develop a holistic approach to help safeguard the health and safety of their workforce while maintaining efficient work operations.
New technologies can improve efficiencies and streamline these processes while making the workplace as safe as possible during these challenging times.
Workplace Zoning—Setting Up the Workplace
Workplace zoning is the process of setting up and managing the various areas within the workplace. By implementing the procedures below, organizations can ensure the workplace is properly zoned and appropriate safety measures are in place for employees to return:
- Companies first must categorize various workplace areas into risk categories, ranging from “safe and secured” to “high-risk” areas. Workplace layouts may be adjusted to meet physical distancing requirements.
- Organizations then must identify areas where no visitors are allowed and only business-relevant personnel may enter.
- Communal areas such as elevators, cafeterias, and washrooms require formal procedures, including appropriate physical distancing measures and personal hygiene practices. Enhanced cleaning processes are key to maintaining hygiene and safe surfaces. Placement of posters and actionable information ensures personnel follow the appropriate procedures at all times.
By implementing the above and ensuring there is a process for point-of-entry screening (i.e., self-reported assessments or formal screening procedures), organizations can ensure the workplace is zoned correctly and safe to work in.
Lastly, procedures must be in place so if workers become unwell while in the workplace, they can be directed efficiently out of contact with others to safely seek medical assistance.
Follow-up contact-tracing procedures are also important to limit the risk and spread to other personnel. For many organizations, putting these measures in place may be challenging, especially with limited resources and expertise, but they will be most effective in keeping employees safe and healthy.
Leveraging Technology to Screen and Support
The pandemic has demonstrated the value of using technology to maintain business operations and improve efficiencies. Whether it is virtual meetings while people work from home or local public health e-mails that keep us up to date, technology has been critical in keeping many organizations working through this crisis.
In order to efficiently return staff safely to the workplace, technology combined with medical expertise can be critical to both inform and direct personnel while ensuring management can support and monitor those requiring assistance.
Digital questionnaires can “fast-track” healthy personnel into the workplace while remotely supporting those requiring quarantine after a workplace exposure. In some jurisdictions, these questionnaires can meet local government requirements. These tools also provide employee peace of mind while demonstrating duty of care.
Employee Emotional Health and Wellness
Lastly, employee emotional health is critical in returning everyone to normal duties. Having a demonstrably safe workplace ensures staff members are comfortable to return. If workers monitor themselves and perform safe practices like physical distancing, good hygiene, and personal protective equipment (PPE) use, everyone will benefit. The pandemic has placed undue stresses on employees and their families, and this needs to be addressed and supported.
In these difficult times, employees are looking for even more leadership from their organization. Resilient companies that respond effectively will continue to lead. By leveraging technologies with best-practice medical expertise, organizations can protect their people, provide a secure work environment, and deliver the best service to colleagues, customers, and the community.
|Myles Druckman, MD, has over 25 years of experience managing international medical services and operations for multinational organizations. At International SOS, he leads a team of experts who advise and support many Fortune 500 companies in developing and managing global health programs and is considered a thought leader in pandemic planning and global corporate health.
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