The onslaught of Coronavirus has proven to be a massive blow to the economies of the world. This killer virus has been on the loose since December 2019, affecting nearly thousands of people around the globe. The novel Coronavirus had its first outbreak in Wuhan, China. The number of casualties is increasing as we speak. The World Health Organization (WHO) is keeping a tab on the numbers of COVID-19 cases and the numbers are disastrous. Huge parts of nations have been decimated. As of 28 March 2020, there have been around 512,701 confirmed cases and 202 countries and areas affected. Workplaces are shut down and people are working from home. And in this situation, once this panic ends, Workplace After Coronavirus Recovery is a concern for everyone.
“To slow the spread of COVID-19, many countries introduced “lockdown” measures. But on their own, these measures will not extinguish epidemics. We call on all countries to use this time to attack the coronavirus. You have created a 2nd window of opportunity.”WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
The WHO organization is expecting the countries to stabilize their panic-stricken citizens by adhering to its guidelines. Out of which, quarantine and maintenance of basic hygienic standards are a must.
It is with social distancing and self-isolation that this virus can be conquered.
With nations on a lockdown, companies are relying on the work from home option.
“Globally, every company is embracing work from home at the moment keeping in mind the enormity of the crisis and its ripple effects. We’re sure that in the current situation, working from within the safe confines of their homes, efficiency, and productivity of our colleagues would increase.”A Paytm spokesperson said,
In such panic-stricken times, the journey to normalize the conditions after this pandemic seems dreadful. However, it is only with careful planning, dedication and optimal usage of safety measures that workplaces can become fully functional. This battle has to be strategically fought on the front foot, especially by every organization’s human resource department. The HR management team needs to look after the mental and physical well being of its employees and bring back the company to its former functioning mode.
It will be mandatory for all workplaces (big or small) to device and follow a carefully structured strategy post coronavirus pandemic. It is needed that any and all organizations must provide for a healthy (mental and physical) environment. This responsibility is bound to be taken even more seriously in today’s crisis-stricken times. Following are a few definite measures to adopt :
1. Encourage Hygienic Practices
The absolute effective way to end Coronavirus is the maintenance of hygienic conditions. This is the only practice that certainly defeats the virus. At workplaces, it must become a shared responsibility of the management and employees alike to keep an eye on the hygienic standards.
- Washrooms, cafes, conference rooms, cubicles, etc should all have sanitizers and tissues within reach.
- Moreover, doctors are of the opinion that all employees, customers or anyone within office premises should be reminded to wash their hands after an interval of three hours.
- There must be timely reminders of hygienic practices through posters, videos, lectures from health experts or health officers.
- Offices should stock up on these essential commodities like face masks and sanitizers.
Initially, when India was presented with its first few cases, the companies adopted aggressive measures to tackle the virus. Such enthusiasm is required by all organizations to remove the coronavirus stain from people’s lives.
A spokesperson for Hiranandani Group said, “In case an employee chooses to use biometric (system), he or she will have to mandatorily use sanitizer before and after punching (marking attendance).”
Practices like such can be made use of post the Coronavirus pandemic as well. It is mandatory that all companies and business organizations work in accordance with the health authorities and follow the safety measures suggested by them.
However, not only the organization as a whole but individual employees must also understand the urgency to maintain personal hygiene and promote it among their colleagues more so now.
2. Sanitize And Disinfect The Workplace
The potency of this virus to spread is not only through saliva but also through various surfaces. On metal surfaces, the virus can survive up to 12 hours and this duration varies from surface to surface.
- It is crucial that common and frequently used surfaces like doorknobs, tables, vending machines, elevator buttons, keyboards, toilets, sinks, etc, must be sanitized and disinfected at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Electrical appliances too should be wiped regularly with a disinfectant wipe.
Paytm has taken rigorous measures to promote hygienic conditions in the workplace. “Our offices are being thoroughly sanitized and we have also distributed masks as well as infra-red thermometers as a necessary precaution. Anyone, including colleagues, visitors, and vendors entering the premises, is getting their temperature checked. We’re closely working with the health authorities to take all necessary preventive measures and stay abreast of the latest safety guidelines.”
To normalize the workplace surroundings, drastic changes need to be made. A course of action or a well-defined approach, both for the company and employees must be in order. Sanitization, disinfection, and perpetuation of hygienic standards must be a top priority.
3. Spread Awareness
It is indispensable to educate the company and its employees of the fatal virus disease that the COVID-19 is. For this,
- regular workshops, conferences, and discussions must be conducted.
- awareness regarding cleaning, recognition of Coronavirus symptoms, ways to tackle the virus in sickness should be imparted.
- only trusted sources like WHO and UNICEF must be referred to.
The current scenario requires workplaces and employees to reinforce good hygienic practices including :
- Frequent washing of hands and disinfecting personal electric appliances or common surfaces.
- Practicing social distancing
- Properly cover a sneeze or a cough with a tissue.
- Keeping a close eye on one’s health.
- Being entirely transparent with the organization about sickness/medical condition.
Employing preventive measures and the correct usage and disposal of masks or tissues should be demonstrated.
Not only this, but the office cleaning staff also has to be properly trained beforehand.
Office helpers and canteen staff must be briefed regarding cleanliness and hygiene standards. Utensils, pick up counters, coffee machines, etc can become hotspots for the infection to spread. Maintenance of sanitation by disinfection should be a methodical practice.
To spread awareness various means like
- Online workshops,
- PowerPoint presentations,
- Posters (provided on www.WHO.int. and by public health authorities)
- Community messages,
- Discussions in meetings
- Intranet daily reminders, etc can be utilized.
Furthermore, the employees must be warned against misinformation on the virus. It is paramount to bust all myths concerning Coronavirus with the help of an expert so that only correct information gets circulated. All false rumors should be addressed. Any and all doubts must be dealt with and resolved.
4. Provide Counseling
Not only physically but the effects of Coronavirus have shown to cause serious mental trouble to the masses.
- People are struggling to stay indoors and have shown symptoms of anxiety.
- The outbreak of fake news and rumors regarding the virus has caused ‘anxiety’.
- Adults and kids alike seem to have developed lethargic attitudes.
It is only with expert counseling that such cases can be tackled. A cheerful disposition and less workload can be a way to normalize situations at workplaces. Counseling should be aimed to promote mental well being at all times. The ambiguous, fearful and uncertain employees ought to be actively dealt with. This should be supplemented with care, safety, job security and well-being of the workforce. Moreover, to promote a healthy and normal work environment, the employees must be encouraged to ask questions.
All kinds of organizations and workplaces need to stay duly informed regarding the latest news and developments of COVID-19. The HR department and every office personnel on an individual level should work towards it.
5. Restrict Physical Contact
To normalize workplaces after COVID-19, a healthy practice of the ‘no handshake policy’ must be adhered to. The Indian way of greeting, ‘namaste’ should be incorporated at all workplaces. This gesture greatly reduces the risk of spreading the virus through physical contact.
Besides this, people at workplaces must be advised to maintain a safe distance of 1 meter (3 feet) from each other. Social distancing must be strictly promoted by all. This may require workplaces to reconsider or change their seating arrangements. Alongside this, make amends to keep the workplace well ventilated. Build the trust of the employees and re-establish their confidence by keeping channels of communication open.
6. Avoid Public Gathering And Travels
To fully recover from a global pandemic, it requires patience along with ample healthy practices. Therefore, communities and workplaces must cooperate with the government to eliminate this fatal disease. All business traveling must be discouraged. Overseas travel can risk exposure to employees.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a geographic risk stratification criteria to inform the public of exposure from travel. This list has countries sorted into 3 levels. Countries put into the Level 3 list have the most number of Coronavirus cases through the widespread transmission. Organizations should temporarily suspend all travel to level 3 countries.
- If travel becomes unavoidable, employees should be screened after their return. Making use of a briefing prior to traveling regarding all the do’s and don’ts will prove helpful.
Primarily the employees should be offered safety in the office premises itself. To deal with their workforce mindfully, the employers should understand the seriousness of the situation the world is currently tussling with. Hence, to cope with a pandemic the safety of the office staff must be at the apex. The slightest of negligence can prove to be disastrous. As a preventive measure, all public events and gatherings should also be discouraged.
In light of the current scenario, organizations like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Redmi have canceled all their on-ground events and international conferences.
A Google spokesperson said, “Due to concerns around the coronavirus (COVID-19), and in accordance with health guidance from the CDC, WHO, and other health authorities, we have decided to cancel the physical Google I/O event at Shoreline Amphitheatre,”
Such informed and quick decision-making power is the strength of every successful institution.
7. Enable Work from Home
Work from home has turned out to be the most optimal utilitarian option in these desperate times. There are various tools that facilitate its seamless functioning too.
- Sick or ailing workers must be granted medical leave or offered to work from home. This is a preventive step that can save others from infection too.
- Employers should practice empathy. Anyone showing even the slightest of flu-like symptoms should be granted work from home.
- Moreover, organizations should focus to promote transparency in communication by acting flexible in such fluid times. Any rigid policy can prove counterproductive.
8. Develop A Contingency Plan
To mitigate the consequences of uncertainties like such, a resilient plan of action must be in order. The functioning of an organization in times of crisis depends on its contingency plan. The HR should formulate a plan that facilitates primary operations, employee safety, and business continuity.
With an unanticipated global pandemic and to safeguard against any unforeseen state of affairs – the need of the hour is to be geared up and prepared. Therefore, remote working tools, strategies, division of responsibilities, assignment of teams and tasks should be analyzed beforehand. The HR is obligated to communicate this contingency plan to every level of the hierarchy.
This contagious virus has spread throughout the world like wildfire and has entire operational systems of nations on its knees. Major economies of the USA, China, India, Italy, UAE among others have ordered a nationwide lockdown. People are forced to stay indoors. As of now, with no vaccine for the virus, quarantine seems to be the only preventive resort.
It is only with the united efforts of employees and the workers that COVID-19 can be battled with at an organizational level. Whereas, the HR departments should focus on improving the company plans, conditions and atmosphere instead of “going back to the way it was”. Initiatives need to be directed towards swift normalization. Restoration measures ought to be carried out with a new outlook and vigor. It is expected out of workplaces to rule out stronger and more potent policies. Organizations should definitely work to stay informed about the ground reality through national and local authorities. When countries with all its man force coalesce against any such abrupt circumstances, the journey to normalization becomes meteoric.