There are many factors to consider when deciding whether it’s safe for your employees to return to the office or reopen workplaces post-COVID-19. It’s not as easy as it may first seem.
First, COVID-19 is still very active and spreading rapidly in Europe and around the world. You also need to factor in that the vaccine rollout is proving slow based on location and logistics.
In this blog post, we’ll look at what you as an employer can do to safely open your offices when restrictions in your country allow.
Best practice around COVID-19
An important factor for employers to consider in the post-COVID world is the potentially long incubation period. This means that an individual employee can be infected with the virus without showing any symptoms for weeks or even months. Therefore, it’s possible for that individual to come to work and spread the virus without realising it.
Health experts are now recommending that infected individuals avoid public transportation and crowded places for up to 20 days after developing a fever. They also recommend avoiding people who are ill in any way (especially if they have a high fever or are coughing) until the symptoms have completely faded.
Maybe you are not aware of this possibility. In that case, when your staff return to the office, they may be spreading COVID-19 unknowingly by allowing them back before they’re completely healthy again. It’s why as a responsible employer or business owner, you need to clamp down on your ill employees and prevent the spread of Coronavirus whilst the government and scientists grapple with the situation and work on treatments.
Therefore, it is important to share some practical tips that businesses can do to protect their employees and work safely again.
7 Actionable Steps an employer can take to make the office post-COVID safe
- Rapid testing – You can now set up rapid testing facilities on-site to allow staff to be tested each day when they arrive at work. Although not bullet-proof, it is a step towards normality and should prevent a significant amount of internal infections.
- Social distancing and ventilation – These two sit together quite comfortably. It is now known that good ventilation and distance apart will reduce infection when there is an infected person present in the room. Good ventilation, spaced-out desks and plastic screens all help to protect staff.
- Disinfection of surfaces – Although the science on this is starting to suggest little to no transmission of the COVID-19 virus from surfaces, good practice and peace of mind for employees demands that hand sanitisers and desk/computer wipes are available and used.
- Strict mask or personal air purifier policy – Despite what a handful of individuals may argue, mask-wearing reduces the distance that viral particles travel from an infected person. Therefore, offices should enforce the wearing of masks to ensure a safe environment for all. Other solutions, such as personal UV air purifiers and wearable personal air purifiers with HEPA filter, promise to make the unpleasant experience of mask-wearing less necessary.
- Isolation of departments and areas where cases emerge – Keeping on top of all employees’ health status is vital at the moment. The ability to locate, isolate and manage any potential outbreaks could mean the difference between business as usual or closing down the office once more.
- Embracing working from home – Companies that blend working from home with office life will be the clear winners during and after this pandemic. Repurposing offices as meeting hubs and teamworking centres, with the everyday grind done at home, might be the best short-term solution. Until things are completely back to normal, reducing the sheer numbers of staff within a building will be a vital piece of the safe-working-place-puzzle.
Business owners can take several recommended precautions when considering a return to the office to avoid getting others sick or preventing colleagues from getting ill whilst at work.
If your office helps ill employees take time off, make sure to do so too. If there’s an outbreak at work and your workplace is closed for some time until the outbreak has cleared up, ensure your employees remain home until they get official permission to return.
According to scientists at The University of Cambridge, evidence points to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus being mainly through large droplets and smaller aerosols. When we cough, sneeze, talk, sing or simply breathe, these are expelled. Someone who has the virus will quickly spread it when they interact with others under normal circumstances.
Their findings also point at indoor transmission being the danger area and much more common than transmission outdoors (increased exposure times, decreased dispersion rates and aerosol carriers being the three key factors that are more prevalent indoors). The same systems that keep us comfortable in the office, air conditioners, could also spread the disease.
Aerosols and droplets in the air are drawn into air conditioning systems and circulated around entire buildings, creating situations where people don’t even have to work at the same company to spread the virus to each other.
Why prevention matters if staff return to the office
UV light and disinfection – an immediate tool for the post-pandemic workplace
Most experts believe that a quick and effective way to prevent Coronavirus outbreaks is by using high-intensity UV lamps (similar to the one used to treat ultraviolet burns) as a disinfectant in workspaces, hospitals and schools.
Health authorities based their findings in part on laboratory research, demonstrating that UV light, and UV-C in particular, kills viruses directly when it comes into contact with them. It also appears to kill other types of bacteria and spores that may be implicated in the delivery of the COVID-19 RNA.
UV-C technology ensures efficient disinfection without producing chemical waste or requiring a lot of maintenance time. This superfast way of eradicating viruses is easily applied in all situations where COVID-19 may be transmitted.
UV light is becoming an essential tool for the protection of the post-pandemic workplace. The compact size and long-range of the UV-C lamps will allow for easy installation in small spaces, such as restrooms, lockers, or even closets. Also, new wearable solutions using UV-C LEDs play a vital role in safer workplaces.
Why use a wearable air purifier?
As mentioned, COVID-19 and many other viruses spread through droplets in the air. So it’s important that before a return to the office, employees are protected whether using a face mask or something even better – a wearable air purifier. Also, if your office has problems with ventilation, a personal air purifier that uses UV technology is a valid and credible option for you – employees will breathe purified air wherever they are.
Here at Respiray, we believed that the ordinary face mask could be upgraded for the 21st century by using UV-C technology. We embrace UV-C’s advancement as a disinfectant by producing a product to be worn when offices reopen after COVID-19. With our device, employees can smile and breathe freely again!
Using UV-C LEDs is a safe and effective way of significantly reducing the threat from airborne viruses and bacteria. And the recent advancements in low maintenance UV-C LEDs (265nm) have made them ultra-safe, producing no ozone. Check out the video below to see how Respiray’s air purifier eliminates over 99%* of harmful pathogens if you wish to return to the office.
- UV-C light breaks down a virus’s RNA to not reproduce, thus rendering it inactive and unable to infect. It kills all kinds of viruses and their mutations. So all future viruses and flu-season is covered.
- Businesses investing in our wearable UV-C air purifying solution require a one-time investment. Rather than using single-use face masks that over time can work out more expensive and contribute to a polluted environment (1.5 billion estimated disposable face masks ended up in the oceans in 2020).
- Everyday communication is not hampered by using a wearable air purifier. You can still communicate freely with colleagues, showing emotions and sharing a smile. This really helps boost morale in contrast to having to wear an obstructive face mask.
- Innovation in the office demonstrates a company’s innovation and forward-thinkingness, that it is willing to adopt new and proven technology to protect their employees; it bodes well for future reputation.
- These devices can essentially be the company’s property, shared between or assigned to employees as your style of working demands. They are easy to clean, and due to the very nature of what they do, cannot contribute to spreading the disease if properly looked after.
- Using UV-C LEDs within a contained unit to purify the air is a highly safe and effective way to create a clean personal environment. When used over a long period or by numerous people, it will actively contribute to an indoor space’s overall air quality.
More information on Respiray and our wearable air purifiers can be found here.
We hope this article gave you some useful tips on how you can safely open your office whilst having peace of mind that your employees are safe and protected.
**Please note: Respiray’s wearable UV air purifier is not a medical-grade Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and in circumstances where medical-grade Personal Protective Equipment is recommended, you should consult a health care professional. Please remember that the use of our wearable air purifier does not replace the recommended measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Follow the latest guidelines and rules of your local authorities and health care professionals.