It’s no secret that the workplace is a prime site for the spread of bacteria and viruses. In pre-Covid times, we’ve all experienced some bug going around the office once or twice in the cold season, but now the outcome from contracting one is more dangerous than ever. With vaccines widely available, it’s our responsibility (and right) to follow preventive measures to avoid the spread of the virus—for the sake of ourselves, our loved ones, and our colleagues.
Despite this, currently, 63% of office workers say they don’t yet feel comfortable returning to work. One in 10 U.S. employees says that nothing would make them feel comfortable working in a space with other people. These numbers suggest that many of us aren’t sure how to protect ourselves in the workplace during the pandemic. To offer you some guidance on staying safe, here are some preventive measures you can take to protect yourself and everyone around you.
1. Keep an Eye on Air Quality
One of the main prerequisites for staying safe in the workplace is adequate air quality. If you feel that the air in a room is stuffy, the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are most likely up and it’s time to let some fresh air in. Adequate ventilation is crucial in reducing the risk of transmission of diseases, including Covid-19.
Ask your employer to invest in a device that monitors indoor air quality and CO2 concentration. If they aren’t convinced, show them proof that stuffy air isn’t only unpleasant—it’s also a health hazard. The bottom line is that air monitoring is a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of infection with any virus and Covid-19, in particular.
2. Wash and Sanitize Your Hands
Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to stay safe in the workplace and steer clear of Covid-19 and many other common viruses. As installing sinks all over the office isn’t usually a feasible option, hand sanitizers (with at least 60% of alcohol) are the next best thing for fighting the spread of viruses.
Use sanitizer wipes before you touch any office equipment, like printers, coffee machines, water coolers, etc. Carry a small sanitizer spray with you for situations where a disinfectant bottle isn’t nearby.
3. Keep a Distance From Other Colleagues
It’s your right to demand space of at least six feet (or two meters) around your desk. If this is impossible, ask for dividers to be installed between your desk and your neighbors. Remember, it’s nothing personal. You are only looking for ways to protect yourself in the workplace during a pandemic.
You can suggest splitting work hours into shifts of smaller teams, thus reducing the number of people working simultaneously in the office. Most companies can achieve this by introducing hybrid work weeks for each employee, with some office days and some remote workdays.
4. Wear Masks During Meetings
Meeting fewer people indoors is one of the main ways to protect yourself in the workplace. Ideally, your management should avoid meetings with many participants or add a part of the employees via video conferencing. For on-site participants, strict precautions should be observed, like wearing masks, hand sanitizing, and restricting the length of meetings.
5. Stay Home at the Slightest Sign of Illness
If you’re feeling just a little under the weather, inform your manager that you’ll be working from home just to stay on the safe side. If you feel sick or exhausted, simply say you need a day off to assess how serious your condition is. Encourage your colleagues to follow suit and stay home if they’re feeling 50-50—even if it seems that they’ve only caught a cold.
6. Avoid Meeting Office Visitors
Today, there should be a strict protocol for such outsiders who enter your usual “bubble.” For example, they should wear protective masks at all times, disinfect hands upon arrival, and fill in self-health questionnaires. If there are many visitors, suggest that your management install wellness monitoring equipment at the entrance, like thermometers or rapid Covid-19 test kits.
7. Water Cooler Chat at a Distance
Always remember that it’s up to you to keep a distance and protect yourself in the workplace. If a co-worker comes too close to you, respectfully, step back or excuse yourself and leave the room. Alternatively, put on a mask for an extra level of protection.
Is Staying Safe in the Workplace Mission Impossible?
The good news is that it’s possible to protect yourself in the workplace during a pandemic by following the simple rules outlined above, especially if your management is responsible and genuinely cares about the wellbeing of their employees. Just be extra cautious, especially during these times, as this will help prevent you from further troubles in the future.