EMPLOYERS: Are you prepared to resume work in the office after ECQ?

 


KEY POINTS:

  • Consider whether you are properly prepared to allow your employees to return to the office
  • Identify risks to take necessary precautions to control and mitigate these risks
  • Always provide your employees with regular, up-to-date, and reliable communication regarding the situation with COVID-19
  • Take a proactive approach to ensure the office is regularly cleaned and disinfected
  • Encourage physical distancing and rearrange your floor plan to give your employees space between each other
  • As much as possible, continue to implement remote work arrangements
  • Stay tuned as we regularly provide updates and resources to help you during the pandemic 

 

As the Extended Community Quarantine or ECQ may end on May 15, 2020, many employers have started to consider resuming operations back in the office. However, there are a few points that should be considered before returning to business-as-usual, so we can prevent a second wave of cases from happening. 

It’s vital that during this time, employers adequately prepare to manage and respond as the pandemic continues to develop. With the possibility of returning to the office, businesses need to ask themselves, are we prepared?

There are a number of steps we need to take before considering returning to the office. In this article, we will talk about three: communication, safety and hygiene measures, and ensuring physical distance in the office.

 

How do we provide information to our employees?

Your employees are likely to be anxious about returning to work during the outbreak. They may have questions about any health risks in the workplace or changes to their work arrangements. Since the situation is constantly changing, regular, up-to-date, and reliable communication is vital. You need to provide a consistent flow of information to your employees to prevent any confusion, rumors, or misinformation. 

 

  • Identify a point person or team to lead all communication regarding COVID-19
  • Stay up to date with the latest information from national and local authorities as well as announcements from the Department of Health (DOH)
  • Provide regular updates through emails, announcements, text messages, etc.
  • Clarify company procedures and policies, especially if there are changes. Include information about flexible work arrangements if any, remote work, absences, sick leaves, etc.

 

What measures can we implement for safety and hygiene?

Employers need to ensure a safe and healthy work environment to help control the spread of viruses like COVID-19 in the workplace. Safety and health measures are different with each sector, so you need to perform a risk assessment for your specific business. Start by identifying risks to your employees and the workplace, then come up with necessary measures to control and mitigate these risks.

Sectors such as those who come in contact with the public or coordinate with multiple clients on a regular basis, for example, need stricter control and prevention as compared to other sectors.

 

Actions you can take include:

 

  • Organize work to reduce person-to-person contact (alternate days in the office per team/department, rotating shifts, etc.)
  • Disinfect the workplace regularly, especially high contact areas like doorknobs and handles, ideally every two (2) hours
  • Ensure proper indoor ventilation
  • Provide adequate supplies (water, soap, hand sanitizer, alcohol) and post reminders to encourage employees to practice proper hygiene (eg. frequent hand washing, avoid touching face, keeping distance from each other)
  • Promote respiratory hygiene (such as face masks) especially to workers at high risk
  • Reduce interaction with people outside the workplace if possible
  • Develop infection control policies and procedures in the case that an employee gets sick
  • Allow and instruct employees to stay at home if they have flu-like symptoms, regardless of travel or contact history
  • Implement/continue to implement remote work arrangements where possible
  • Ensure physical distance at the workplace

 

How do we continue social/physical distancing while at work?

It’s highly encouraged that if you can continue to implement remote work arrangements, that you continue to do so, even if the ECQ is lifted after May 15. But if you resume operations in the office, ensure social/physical distancing. In general, distancing refers to keeping at least a 1.5-meter radial space (side, back, and front) between employees. 

 

Encourage distancing by: 

 

  • Continuing remote work as much as possible
  • Arrange office tables to increase physical space between workers (minimize number of people per table if tables are shared/common, spread out tables/cubicles, etc.)
  • Hold meetings via video conferencing
  • Discourage eating in communal areas. It is best to eat in individual work areas for the time being
  • Limit the number of people inside an enclosed space such as a meeting room, store, or hallway, restroom, elevator, stairwells, etc.
  • Change workplace culture (stop hand-shaking, limit sharing of food, etc.)
  • Discourage prolonged face-to-face interaction
  • Limit number of people who enter elevators, observing 1-meter physical distancing
  • Deliver products through curb-side pick-up or delivery

 

We must remember that while the ECQ may be ending, the pandemic is nowhere near over. We need to work together and ensure our workplaces are safe for everyone if we do decide to return to the office. 

In the coming weeks, Recruitday will continue to provide as much information, resources, and updates on COVID-19 to help you ensure that your employees and workplaces are safe.

 


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