Looking Ahead of COVID-19
Many people have referred to our current situation in life as “the new normal;” however, the new normal has yet to come. The changes we have faced over the past few months have been difficult and for some, drastic, but they are not permanent. Eventually, the pandemic crisis will end, social distancing will disappear, and the world will return to normal, but it won’t be normal we were used to. The post-pandemic world will become our new normal, and we need to prepare for it.
What exactly does preparing for a post-pandemic world mean? Eventually, social distancing will end, allowing employees to return to work in the office rather than from home. If we jump back into the way things were before the pandemic, the coronavirus may start to spread rapidly again. In order to avoid another large outbreak and decrease the chances of spreading the virus, new policies and precautions must be put into place.
Also Read: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
One new policy companies are thinking about implementing is taking employees’ temperatures before they are allowed to enter the building. An employee with a fever will be sent home for the day. This does not mean the employee must take a sick day but could work from home if applicable. This precaution is to help keep any employees that could possibly be sick away from both the facilities and all other employees.
Another trend that may change in both the working world and other aspects of life is shaking hands. People shake hands for different reasons throughout life. One situation in which individuals shake hands is during a job interview. The candidate usually introduces him or herself to possible employers with a handshake. Interviews usually conclude with another parting handshake. When introduced to other employees of the company, handshakes are also common. Aside from shaking hands with people from the same company, there are also visitors that may come in and shake hands with workers.
In the new normal, people will have to think of an alternate gesture to a handshake since shaking hands gives you direct contact with the germs and bacteria another individual may carry. It is rare that someone rushes to wash their hands right after shaking hands with someone else, and they may forget and touch their face sometime after the exchange. This leaves their eyes, mouth, and nose vulnerable to any foreign germs. The coronavirus spreads so easily that a simple handshake could be all it takes for someone to fall ill. Some alternatives to handshakes may include elbow bumping, head nodding, or waving.
Right now, hand sanitizer is hard to come by, but offices should prepare to stock up. Hand sanitizer should be available and easily accessible to all employees. There should be hand sanitizer located by the entrances and exits, as well as locations throughout the office. This allows for employees to clean their hands without having to go to the bathroom for soap and water every so often. Along with hand sanitizing stations, a disinfectant should also be available for employees to wipe down high-touch surfaces. If your company can afford it, try providing more equipment or machinery so fewer employees have to share. Providing employees with their own equipment decreases the sharing of germs to one another.
Masks may be another requirement in offices once everyone is back into working on-site. This may be temporary, or even seasonal but it is another precaution that could help to prevent another outbreak of the coronavirus. Masks are worn by those who may be sick, in order to help prevent the spread of their germs. Masks are also worn by individuals who appear healthy in case they are asymptomatic. Individuals who are asymptomatic can still spread the virus simply by talking in close proximity to other people.
Speaking of close proximity, office layouts may have to be revamped in order to spread employees out. Many companies have moved to an open concept layout in recent years, but this could be an issue as open-concept lacks barriers that could help to separate employees and their germs from one another. Cubicles are an option that allows for a physical barrier between employees. Another option is to spread employees six feet apart from one another, which depending on space in the office, can be difficult.
Aside from the office layout, the maximum capacity of specific rooms and areas should be lowered. Conference rooms should allow for more space between attendees than usual. This may mean that meetings will have to be via web conference, including fewer people, be broken down into smaller sessions, or a combination of these ideas. Bathrooms are another common area in which capacity should be limited. Bathrooms are high-touch and germ-infested areas as it is; limiting the number of individuals in the small area at a time will cut back on person to person spread of germs. Hallways are another area that can hold congestion. Due to this, some companies have implemented one-way walk areas in the office. One more main congestion area includes the exits and entrances to the building. Because this can be difficult to control, companies may consider staggering start and stop times for employee hours. As a result, fewer employees are coming and going at the same time.
Following the return to the office, it would be wise for companies to continue with a work from home policy. Whether employees are allowed to work from home a few days a week or even a month, or just work from home if they are feeling under the weather, it would help to keep both germs and over congestion out of the office.
Sick leave is another policy that companies should consider revamping. Many companies provide their employees with a minimum of sick days required to be provided. This may discourage employees from taking a sick day and coming into the office when they should not be around others. Having more sick days would lead to fewer employees spreading their illness to others. If a company cannot afford to allow for more sick days, the work from the home policy can act as a substitute to keep the employee working, but also keep their germs away.
There are many companies that require their employees to travel to other locations or clients. Due to the coronavirus, both employees and employers are skeptical about continuing this travel. Unless absolutely necessary, it is advised that employees find an alternative to traveling such as video conferences with their clients. If travel is necessary, employees must follow the CDC recommended guidelines of keeping a six-foot distance from others, washing their hands, and avoiding touching their faces.
Due to the coronavirus companies have had to complete layoffs in order to keep their company afloat. With the fear of another large outbreak occurring again, companies may hesitate to hire any new full-time employees. In cases like this, a company needs to decide how viable a position may be. If it is a position that can survive through another outbreak, make the hire. If there is too much work for current employees to handle, but you are afraid another outbreak would lead to more layoffs, consider hiring temps, interns or part-time employees.
These changes may not seem like big deals to some, while others are not sure how their companies will adapt. This is why, rather than wait, companies need to start making adjustment plans now. The new normal will be here before we know it and it is better to be prepared than to go in blindly.