Heading back to office? Follow these precautions to stay COVID-19 free

With workplaces, restaurant delivery, and domestic flights opening up slowly and steadily in the upcoming weeks, individuals are extremely apprehensive as to what the future of work will hold. YS Weekender brings you ways to keep yourself protected amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As lockdown 4.0 still continues in India, it is safe to say that the Government has eased restrictions in non-red zones as per the ministry of home affairs guidelines.

At the beginning of this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi provided a substantial economic relief package to support the airlines, small businesses, and migrant labourers across the country.

With a total of 145K confirmed coronavirus cases and increasing by the day in India, and 6 million globally, citizens are doing their level best to follow necessary protocol, amidst the nation- wide lockdown and restrictive measures that are in place.

But now, with workplaces, restaurant delivery, grocery stores and domestic flights, opening up slowly and steadily in the upcoming weeks, individuals are extremely apprehensive as to what the future of work will hold.

With the pandemic not disappearing any time soon, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating that it will take a year or two till an adequate vaccine is developed, social distancing and limiting contact amongst peers, and stepping out with PPE is the new normal.

The coronavirus is known to thrive on surfaces, and it is crucial to be cognizant every time you touch metal, plastic, cardboard and other day-to-day objects, materials, and surfaces as the virus can last for up to 24 hours or more. It should, therefore, be a rule of the thumb to wash your hands thoroughly every time you step out.

Further going mask-less and having an attitude of invincibility is not helpful at all, as the virus is spread through saliva droplets, cough, sneezes, and fomites. Hence taking preventive measures is required during this time.

YS Weekender brings you effective measures and steps to take if you plan to head back to the workplace soon…

Maintain a 6 feet distance when conversing with colleagues. (Image Credit: Vecteezy)

Maintain social distancing amongst colleagues

Social distancing is extremely important in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Isolating, keeping a space between you and your co-workers is extremely crucial during this time. Staying 6 feet apart, with a two arm-length between individuals is something you need to make a consistent habit of. 

Maintaining a two-seat distance from your colleagues, and minimising the number of individuals entering the office space, is something organisations are currently practising.

Creating a plan on how many individuals to let into the workplace at a time, rotating employees and setting a schedule for them to come in during the day in smaller numbers is the way to go.

Wear your PPE even while talking is a must as symptoms can be prevalent before you know it, and droplets from sneezes and coughs, could be a potential carrier and risk to others.

Avoid sitting in groups at lunch, and eat separately for the time being. It is advised to bring your own towels, cutlery, and water bottles rather than taking things from the pantry.

Frequently disinfect your keypad and belongings (Image Credit: CNN)

Sanitise office surfaces

Make sure to regularly clean your computers keypad, and sanitise your phone when you come back from a long day of work.

It is best not to borrow battery packs, chargers, or cables from your co-workers, and be prepared to carry your own work material.

The coronavirus loves surfaces, so make sure that your workplace tables, and floors are cleaned daily, and you have an alcohol based sanitiser and a tissue roll in handy. Avoid touching your nose and face with your hands as much as possible, and if you sneeze make sure to wash your hands immediately.

Before individuals are permitted into the office space, thermal screening must be conducted, and if you have a temperature or show any flu like symptoms it is best to inform HR and stay at home.

Take the stairs

Try not to use the elevator as much as possible, as a number of people touch the floor buttons frequently. It is best to take the stairs for the time being, and avoid touching or rubbing your hand against the railing.

Being in an elevator with other individuals is quite risky, as you are enclosed in a tight space, and the chances of being in the presence of someone with subtle symptoms is quite likely. Not more than 2-4 people should use the elevator at a time.

The good part about taking the stairs is that it is not only healthy, but also helps you burn off some calories and remain less sedentary.

Go virtual with meetings using Skype for Business, Zoom or Cisco WebX

Limit in-person meetings, go virtual

Avoiding air-conditioned spaces, and carrying out meetings virtually is advised for the time being, as we still need to limit gathering in groups for the next one year.

There should be no more than 6-10 individuals in a meeting room, and it is imperative that masks are used even when talking and trying to get a point across.

Hence to take the necessary precaution it is best to turn to video calling applications such as Zoom Skype for Business, Google Hangouts, and Cisco WebX amongst other team apps to connect with employees.

If your company encourages working from home, and the nature of your work can be carried out from any place, it is best to continue to do so till the global curve flattens.

Avoid public transport

It is best to come to work through your own means of transportation if possible; as you don’t know how frequently public transport has been cleaned.

Even when using your own car or bike, it is best to wipe down the seats both when you begin a workday, and when you go home in the evening. Sanitising the steering wheel, door handles, hand breaks, and stick shift is crucial.

It is best not to car-pool or share an office minivan for the time being, if your office is not too far away you can even consider safer options such as walking or cycling to work.

limit social interaction outside the office space (Image Credit: Spruce & Ferguson)

Avoid smoke and coffee breaks with colleagues

Since you will be only permitted to enter the workplace for a fixed time on particular days, it is best to utilise this time to devote all your energy to work.

Smoking gutka or tobacco outside or on your office terrace should be avoided, as second hand smoke is not only harmful for others walking by, but also a huge respiratory risk during the coronavirus outbreak. Smokers are extremely vulnerable to infection and pose a high risk.

Taking care of your respiratory health should be of utmost priority right now, and if you need to smoke, do it in the comfort of your own home balcony.

If your office has a coffee machine, touch the buttons with a clean tissue, and dispense your beverage of choice, and dispose the tissue once used.

Since we need to maintain social distance, it is best to not gather in large groups or with two or more colleagues to go to the nearest coffee outlet or barista.

Instead if you have to talk to a colleague over coffee sit at a wide table, maintaining distance and enjoy your cup of coffee indoors instead.

Edited by Asha Chowdary