Updated: Jun 26, 2020
Saying these are challenging times is an understatement. The combined pressures of a global pandemic and a crashing economy are putting us in the difficult position of returning to work with the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace. If you’re returning to work soon, it is important to ensure that you are taking the utmost precautions to stay safe. Here are five ways to SAFELY return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Wear Personal Protective Equipment
This is obvious but wearing PPE should be a no brainer for anyone going into a building right now. As people have become accustomed to the quarantine, it seems that less and less people are wearing face masks or gloves in public. Although PPE is not the most comfortable thing to wear at work, it is essential to make PPE a requirement (not just a suggestion) in your workplace to limit the spread of germs and reduce the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak in your workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask anytime you leave the house regardless of whether you have any symptoms or not.
2. Wash Your Hands and Don’t Touch Your Face
Alongside wearing gloves and a mask, washing your hands on a regular basis is instrumental in reducing the chance of infection. Wearing a mask can be uncomfortable all day but you must do your best to avoid adjusting it or touching your face as it could increase your chances of contracting Coronavirus. It is recommended by the CDC to never touch your face once you have put on a face mask and to only handle it by the ear loops to apply and remove the mask.
3. Maintain a 6 Foot ‘Bubble’ of Personal Space
Although things are starting to feel like they are going back to normal, COVID-19 is still a considerable threat to you and those around you. It is important to make sure you continue maintaining a 6 foot personal bubble around you at all times even when wearing PPE. Respect others' physical boundaries and avoid any close contact with co-workers to keep everyone safe. That means no shaking hands, even if you’re both wearing PPE, just don’t risk it. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel but remember that we’re not completely out of the dark yet.
4. Ask Your Employer Which Measures They Have Implemented For COVID-19
This is an essential part of returning to work safely. If your employer hasn’t mentioned a organization-wide COVID-19 action plan, the organization is at greater risk of an outbreak. Part of your rights as an employee are to refuse to work in an unsafe workplace. If you feel like your workplace could have a better plan for mitigating COVID-19, make it clear to your supervisor, HR, or the Health & Safety Officer at your workplace. Organizations should have a comprehensive COVID-19 plan in place that should include company wide testing schedules, regular cleaning and sanitizing of all workspaces, PPE requirements, and more.
5. Demand An Ongoing Workplace Testing Program
With many large companies returning to physical locations for work, employees are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Testing employees once is not a long-term solution. It is important to demand that your organization implements required COVID-19 testing on a consistent scheduled basis. Whether it is once per day, week, or month, having a consistent schedule will ensure an outbreak is managed before it’s too late.
Returning to work during the pandemic is risky but if you follow these best practices outlined by the CDC, you will significantly decrease your risk of getting sick with COVID-19. Be safe, practice proper social distancing, wear PPE, wash your hands, and ensure your workplace is regularly testing all employees. Good luck and stay safe!