Published in El Pais, 25 August 2020.
At some parts of the world offices are starting to open up with employees rotating between working in the office and staying home. While some cannot wait to get back, others are reluctant to do so, citing fears of getting sick and arguing that if most of the staff is at home anyways there is no point to returning. Regardless of the employer’s opinion it is worth highlighting the importance of keeping its workforce safe and healthy, if they are concerned with productivity now, wait until everyone is calling in sick. Below are some things workplaces should do during and long after the pandemic to prevent the spread of all viruses.
Work from Home
Many employees have either zero or little sick days at their disposal, which means nothing short of a hospitalization will keep them from coming into work. The fact is that everyone loses in this situation. Any employee coming in sick will certainly not be working at peak productivity and will prolong his or her illness due to the lack of rest and even worse, they will likely spread the virus to others who will either take time off or also come in and continue to work below peak performance. This is where working from home can be a compromise. If someone has a minor cold, they may feel like they can still work but they could easily give the virus to others, mandating work from home for those who are slightly ill can help reduce that spread and prevent a costly outbreak amongst employees. Where working from home is not an option an employee should work separately from others and limit client facing responsibilities.
Everyone knows the importance of washing your hands but sanitizing commonly touched surfaces is just as important. If you touch a surface with the virus and then touch your phone, it becomes contaminated and you risk infection every time you touch it. Dousing your phone in alcohol or sanitizer however can damage the device, fortunately there is an alternative solution. Special phone sanitizers use UV light to kill 99% of germs and bacteria without the risk of damaging your phone. Special UV wands are also being created to help sanitize larger surfaces more effectively. Having such devices in offices and factories can help keep your workforce safe during the pandemic and flu season.
These are already being used in airports and workplaces where social distancing is very difficult to ensure no one has a fever. Since many have already installed such a device it would be worth keeping around during flu season to help monitor potential infections. Workers who are sick can be sent home or at least work in a more isolated area from the rest of the work force.
This pandemic has highlighted long existing problems that have been ignored for decades. While the flu may not be as contagious or deadly, having an outbreak at work can be devasting for productivity. It is time employers take a serious approach to preventing illnesses just as they would with other workplace accidents, doing so would result in an absolute win-win.