As the lockdown eases, offices are beginning to reopen. As much as we would like, the things will not be the same, at least for some time.
Every organisation must learn to live with the virus and implement certain processes to safeguard their employees, customers/clients and stakeholders.
The new SOPs should include:
• Sanitisation of the building, workstations and office equipment.
• Checking temperature of everyone entering the office premises using non-contact temperature measurement devices.
• Maintaining an on-site supply of face masks, hand gloves, hand-sanitisers and protective gear.
• Hand-washing and sanitising facility for vehicles.
• Methods for handling medical emergencies related to Covid-19.
• Mandatory Aarogya Setu app installation on all employees’ phones to check the zones they are coming from.
Guidelines for Employers:
• Everyone entering office should be scanned for temperature thermally/ other non-contact devices.
• If there are symptoms such as fever or breathing difficulty, or if any employee has been exposed to Covid-19 infection, allow employees to stay home and use sick leaves, vacation time, or other leave, or work from home. If possible, reflect this in your company policy.
• Attendance to be recorded online (do not use bio-metric devices)
• Create an atmosphere in which employees can freely take advantage of available leaves and flexible working hours. Make sure there are no disadvantages from doing so.
• Avoid business travel, both domestic and international.
• Ensure workers keep six feet apart by using available space or changing the directions of work-spaces.
• Limit the use of cafeteria and other break spaces.
• Ensure senior management effectively sensitises employees of the new rules/processes.
• Train employees on proper methods to manage hygiene.
• Maintain adequate supply of masks and other hygiene products according to the needs of the workplace.
• Create a culture that minimizes extracurricular activities so that people go home directly after work.
• Meeting rooms should display the protocol of use.
• A team should be appointed taking charge of quarantine efforts.
Guidelines for organising meetings:
• Use video conferencing and phone calls as much as possible.
• Make sure in-person meetings take place in ventilated spaces where employees can maintain physical distance.
• Minimize meeting attendees and maximize efficiency to reduce the meeting length.
Guidelines when conducting in-person meetings:
• Inform attendees that they should refrain from attending the meeting if they have been exposed to the infection or have any symptoms of the infection.
• Refrain from any physical contact like shaking hands, before or after the meeting.
• Ensure hand sanitizer is readily available in the meeting room so attendees can use it frequently.
• Meeting should be held in a well-ventilated, spacious area.
• Take a break every hour to ventilate the space by opening doors and windows.
• Maintain six feet distance between every attendee. If this is not possible then refrain from meeting in-person. If the meeting is still necessary, ensure every attendee wears a mask, even when speaking.
Guidelines for employees:
• If feeling sick/unwell, go home.
• Always wear face mask, hand-gloves and carry a hand-sanitiser.
• Keep sufficient distance.
• Meetings, training, and workshops should be conducted online.
• Avoid working from rooms that do not have ventilation and maintain six feet distance from colleagues while seating.
• Try and bring home-cooked meal. Do not use the microwave to heat it (thus, avoiding contact).
• Carry your own water-bottle. Use your own spoons and mugs.
• Carry a pack of tissues/handkerchief.
• If necessary, to speak, cover your mouth.
• Regularly disinfect places using the sanitiser where your hands often touch (table, keyboard, mouse, phone, etc.).
• Avoid touching your face.
• Avoid physical contact. No shaking hands.
• Proactively use flexible work hours.
• No more than 2 people should occupy the break room at once.
• Ensure the washroom is sanitised before and after use.
Henceforth, the 'new normal' is conferences/meetings held online, hand sanitizers in the pockets, faces masked and meeting attendees sitting six feet apart from each other. Such a workplace surely reduces the possibility of viral transmission but limits the socialization aspects that usually make an office worthwhile. The 'new normal' is keeping physical distance while maintaining social connections.