One of the most profound ways the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives has been in the way we work in the office. For people lucky enough to keep their jobs, and for those of us in professions where it’s possible, working from home has become the new normal.
Australia’s success in “flattening the curve” means restrictions are now being lifted. With this, many employers are bringing their staff back into the office, or at least contemplating doing so.
But as the current outbreaks in Victoria show, it’s dangerous to think we’re now safe from the threat of COVID-19.
So, what do we need to consider as we take those first tentative steps back into the office?
Considerations for Office Workers
First, each employee in a shared office should be able to have at least 4m² to themselves. If this isn’t possible, it would be a good idea to stagger staff or allow them to continue working from home for now.
cleaning protocols need to be increased. Where once a twice weekly visit from a contracted cleaner to vacuum the floors, empty the bins and quickly wipe over surfaces was considered sufficient, during COVID-19 you need to ensure a thorough daily clean of all surfaces.
Frequently touched surfaces, such as desks, light switches, door handles, phones, staircase railings, touch screens, keypads, taps and toilets should be given special attention and may require more frequent cleaning.
if a worker becomes sick with respiratory symptoms, isolate them from other staff and arrange for them to go home. Advise them to get tested for COVID-19 and not return to work until they have a negative result.
Similarly, reinforce the message, “if you’re sick, get tested and don’t come to work”. Now more than ever, the culture of “soldiering on” while unwell puts others at risk.
Finally, you might also consider asking employees to wear face masks at work. Face masks are unlikely to protect the person wearing them but can limit the disease being spread by coughs and sneezes.
maintain a distance of 1.5m from other people to protect yourself from airborne droplets.
practise good respiratory hygiene by coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the crook of your elbow. This prevents viral particles spreading over surfaces and toward people around you.
Lastly, if you have any symptoms, don’t go to work. Get tested as soon as possible and stay at home until you receive the results.