With the spread of the new coronavirus or COVID-19, companies all around the world are facing difficult operational and economic challenges. The way we work and function in society is rapidly changing under these new circumstances.
Hence, we must adapt to a new way of life during this pandemic. And as our daily habits and the way we interact with people change, the way we work will have to change too.
Business owners and employees are part of the same equation. And all of us must follow the rules provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Staying safe and keeping everyone around us safe too, is now a priority.
Thus, it is essential for businesses to ensure the welfare of their employees. Understanding what the coronavirus is, what the symptoms are, and finding ways to keep the workplace clean is imperative.
And there are ways all of us can contribute.
In this article, we’re going to answer these questions and provide you with ways to keep your workplace clean during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is Coronavirus?
According to WHO, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause sickness in humans and animals. Coronaviruses cause respiratory infections in humans that range from the common cold to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The new coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, originated in 2019 in Wuhan, China, and causes COVID-19.
What is COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus causes the COVID-19 condition, which is a new illness that we haven’t encountered before December 2019 during the initial Wuhan outbreak. Today, almost every country in the world has a large number of registered COVID-19 cases.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the CDC, COVID-19 patients exhibit a wide range of symptoms. And depending on the severity of the infection, patients show mild to severe symptoms, even death. Since the incubation period can last between 2 to 14 days, most symptoms begin to show in that timeframe.
The most common signs of a COVID-19 infection are:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
- Some patients exhibit the following symptoms as well:
- Aches and pains
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
However, some people might not show any signs of a COVID-19 infection, even though they’ve contracted the new coronavirus. Hence, they won’t develop the symptoms we described above and would feel healthy.
In most cases, however, the symptoms vary and start gradually. The condition is very mild at the beginning of the illness. In fact, for 80 percent of coronavirus patients, there won’t be a need for special treatment. And they would recover within a couple of weeks of bed rest.
But for the other 20 percent, the need for specialized care will arise. 1 out of 6 people who get COVID-19 will exhibit more severe symptoms, including high fever and difficulty breathing, which may result in a more critical condition. That’s why getting tested and getting the proper medical attention is so important.
Older people or people with the following medical conditions are more susceptible to severe coronavirus symptoms:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- How does the coronavirus disease spread?
The coronavirus spreads through contact with infected people, small droplets, and touching contaminated objects.
Person to person transmission is the most direct manner of spreading the illness. However, people can also get infected if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19. When people who have the coronavirus cough or sneeze, they transmit small droplets from the nose or mouth into the air.
Another way for you to get infected is through touching surfaces that have been contaminated by droplets. When you get in contact with these objects or surfaces and then proceed to touch your face (mouth, eyes, nose), you can get infected.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the air?
The WHO stated that the primary method of spreading is a person to person transmission and droplets. Not through the air.
Can COVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?
Yes, but it is unlikely because the person needs to spread droplets to infect the other people around. Hence, the risk of catching coronavirus from a person that’s not exhibiting any symptoms is low.
However, since the COVID-19 symptoms begin slowly, the person spreading the disease might not be aware that they have coronavirus. They might think they have a common cold or flu, and by coughing or sneezing, they can spread the virus.
What should you do if you believe you have the coronavirus disease?
If you show any symptoms, such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, you should seek medical advice right away. This may be an indication of a respiratory infection or a complication of another serious condition.
Moreover, if you have been in contact with a person you know is infected with COVID-19 or if you traveled in areas where COVID-19 is widely present, you should self-isolate for 14 days and see if you develop any symptoms.
The most effective way to handle the situation is to call in advance and give your medical provider all the necessary information. Including, but not limited to, recent travel, contact with sick people, and your current symptoms. The medial provider will instruct you further about the testing possibilities and special care.
That way, you’ll get the proper directions and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Proper social distancing and good respiratory hygiene is a responsibility for each and every one of us. And we have to take it seriously!
Ways to Keep Your Workplace Clean During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you have to continue working during the coronavirus pandemic, here are some ways to keep the office clean. These tips will help everyone in the office feel at ease, and more importantly, safe employees are happy employees.
1) Disinfect the Whole Office
Cleaning your office can minimize the risk of your employees getting infected with COVID-19 by touching surfaces and objects. Plus, cleaning the office will make everyone feel like they have been taken care of, and they have nothing to worry about.
There’s a reason one of the most famous proverbs is cleanliness is next to godliness.
According to Sentrex UK, a frequent cleaning schedule should be established with a focus on working stations, conference rooms, locker rooms, canteens/cafeterias, and reception areas. In fact, any area where there is a group of people, including hygiene facilities and dispensaries, needs special attention.
To put it simply, any area where people gather in groups, should be kept clean. The desks are important, but the risk of transmission is bigger in the common room.
The recommended guidelines for disinfecting the office includes frequent cleaning of:
- Desktops & work surfaces
- Computer monitors, keyboards & mice
- Tablets & laptops
- Telephone equipment
- Chair rests & arms
- Doorknobs & door handles
- Light switches & dimmer switches
- Lifts, doors & buttons
- Canteen tables, chairs, crockery, trays & cutlery
- Sinks, taps & kitchen areas
- Toilets, including all surfaces
- Drinks dispensers & vending machines
You should sanitize the office at least once a day, and if possible, two times, between shifts or during a break. The general guidelines are that a surface should be cleaned more frequently, depending on the number of people that are touching it/using it.
It might be annoying at first, but people will get used to it, and some will embrace this practice. Because it keeps everyone in the office safe. And it will do wonders for the collective spirit. Trust us on this, you want your people to feel like you’re doing everything to keep them healthy.
We recommend you to use a commercial disinfecting wipe, commercial anti-microbial products, detergent and water, or a product with at least 70 percent alcohol. You can find the EPA approved list of disinfectants here.
If you can’t find the proper products, soap and water will do the trick!
2) Keep an Updated List of COVID-19 Hotspots
Keeping employees informed about possible COVID-19 hotspots can go a long way towards protecting them, especially if there are cases in your city or community. Keep an updated list in the office and send email updates regularly.
You can get the information from the CDC website, which is updated daily. However, make sure you’re sensitive when you’re sending these emails. The goal is not to cause panic, but to provide useful info. And always start on a positive note, like how many people in your area have recovered. Or that you don’t have any (or new) cases in your community.
Positivity can go a long way in this crisis. Keep the spirits up!
3) Be Careful with Food Handling
The threat of getting infected with COVID-19 through food or food packaging is extremely low. This is a good thing, and people need to know about it!
There has been no evidence so far that a person can get infected with coronavirus through food. Moreover, coronaviruses can’t survive in food, because they need a live host, human or animal.
However, because the virus can spread through droplets that land on nearby surfaces, it’s imperative to be careful with food handling in the office. Also, creating a schedule where no more than a couple of people are allowed in the canteen at the same time is prudent.
Depending on the available space, employees should practice social distancing while eating. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t talk and share a cup of coffee while they’re doing it. Encourage them to check in on each other throughout the day.
Keeping these common areas clean before and after usage is also strongly advised. For the time being, you should consider providing lunch through catering or urge employees to bring their own portions.
Home cooked meals are the best.
That way, the risk of contaminating a shared item will be lower, and you can prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. In fact, if at all possible, you should exclude and limit any shared items during the pandemic.
Give everyone a personal cutlery set.
Remember to disinfect the canteen between groups. And create a schedule that allows time at least for a quick swipe.
4) Stock up on Soap & Hand Gels for the Personnel
Providing employees with personal hand gels and soaps might be the best way to avoid cross-contamination. Each person working in the office should have a hand gel and use it frequently throughout the day.
5) Post Handwashing Warnings
Reminding personnel of the WHO and CDC guidelines can’t hurt, and during a pandemic, it can save lives. That’s why creating several notification stations around the office that display relevant information, and handwashing signs is a good idea.
However, there should be several boards around the office, so people won’t have to gather in one place to get the information. And they can practice safe social distancing.
Plus, signs can be fun, if you make them colorful and amusing. But still, educational.
6) Consider WFH
WFH or work from home became mandatory for a considerable number of companies when the coronavirus pandemic started. And remote work is now a new way of operating and functioning while people are practicing social distancing. However, that’s not the case in every industry. And for the essential professions, it’s not even an option.
Depending on your industry, you should consider WFH if not for all employees, at least for the ones that can perform their tasks from home.
WFH can have numerous benefits, and at the same time, it will protect the people that have to work in the office and the ones that will stay at home.
By having part of the personnel working from home, there will be more room in the office for social distancing. And the common areas will be less crowded. Plus, if one of the employees that are working from home gets infected, they won’t be able to infect the others. And vice versa, their risk of getting infected is lower because they’re working from home.
WFH was trending even before the pandemic, so this might be the time for you to try it out, and work out the kinks. And you might be saving lives. That’s more than a good perk!
Protection Measures for ALL Employees
All of your employees should follow the WHO and CDC regulations regarding COVID-19:
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with water and soap for at least 20 seconds
- Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub
- Maintain at least 3 feet distance between yourself and anyone who might be sneezing or coughing
- Avoid touching your face if your hands are not clean
- Follow good respiratory hygiene
- Stay home if you’re feeling sick, have been in contact with someone who’s ill or if you have recently visited a community with a coronavirus outbreak
- Check the updated list of COVID-19 hotspots regularly and avoid those areas
Is there a cure for COVID-19?
At this time, there is no known cure for COVID-19, but some western and traditional treatments can alleviate the symptoms. However, even though bed rest and common flu medicine work in mild cases, for the severe ones, medical care is imperative.
Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
At this time, there is no known vaccine for COVID-19. There are over 20 clinical trials at the moment that are testing for a possible vaccine.
The novel coronavirus is NOT airborne, which means by practicing social distancing and good hygiene, you can prevent the spread of the virus among your employees and communities. Furthermore, cleaning and disinfecting the office areas will prevent transmission between objects and surfaces to people.
Your people will feel safe, and that will reflect in their productivity. By doing everything by the book, you can get through this pandemic.