We have been living in the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two years now. And although the situation has changed in the country as we understand more about the illness and introduce measures to reduce the spread of the disease, we are still needing to adapt the ways that we are living and working to reduce its spread.
With the advancement of the new Omicron variant, we are already seeing government rules being ramped up.
Ensuring that our businesses and services continue to function and be successful through the colder months is essential to making sure that the economy survives and prospers. Businesses need to adapt to be COVID secure to ensure that the virus does not spread easily.
During the warmer months, windows can be opened, helping to reduce the spread of the virus, but this is a lot more difficult in the British winter. With this in mind, businesses need to be able to make themselves COVID secure in other ways.
It is important that you put your staff’s well-being at the front of every decision that you make about your business. You should consider their physical and mental health when you are making decisions and try to make sure that they are comfortable with any choices that you make.
Some businesses can offer working from home options if possible so that employees can avoid being around a lot of people both whilst they are at work, but also during their commute to and from work. Technology such as Zoom and Teams can be useful for this.
If you can encourage your employees to work from home, you could consider supporting them to buy office equipment for their home or by giving them financial support to pay for internet or electricity bills.
We are all aware that COVID most successfully spreads through airborne particles. This is why social distancing is useful, giving a larger amount of space between people. If possible, try to place employees a minimum of two metres apart to help to facilitate social distancing. You could also consider creating more space by adding temporary extra office space – perhaps by customising a shipping container to enable your employees to spread out or sit separately.
Practising good hand hygiene and wearing masks have always been an important weapon against the disease. It is recommended that you try to encourage these measures as much as you can in the workplace, especially during the winter. You could ask staff members to wear masks when not at their desks or provide hand sanitizer for them to use to help to reduce the risk of infection, for example. Some businesses have also installed extra sinks for handwashing in their premises and ruled for their staff to carry out regular COVID lateral flow tests as extra measures.
Ensuring that there is adequate ventilation is essential for good COVID safety. During the winter, however, it is much more difficult to have windows open. Although for some businesses, this might be possible, others need to consider other means of ventilation. Unfortunately, a regular air conditioning system does normally not provide adequate ventilation as it just circulates existing air, and a specific system that introduces fresh clean air is necessary.
It is difficult to know whether the space is adequately ventilated but you can get a good idea by using a Carbon Monoxide monitor to check where there is good and less good ventilation.
It is important to note that air quality and good ventilation can also be very beneficial in terms of productivity. The Harvard Business Review looked into the effect of air quality on workers and found that “breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making performance among our participants. We saw higher test scores across nine cognitive function domains when workers were exposed to increased ventilation rates, lower levels of chemicals, and lower carbon dioxide. The results showed the biggest improvements in areas that tested how workers used information to make strategic decisions and how they plan, stay prepared, and strategize during crises.”
Ensuring that your building is properly and regularly cleaned is also another important factor in making it COVID secure. You should consider ensuring that you regularly clean the surfaces that are often touched by employees (at a minimum of twice a day).
When it comes to protecting your employees from COVID-19, especially during the winter months, carrying out a risk assessment can be very useful. From this, it is possible to ascertain how well you are protecting them now and what you can do to improve this.
Regardless of the rules that are imposed on us by the government, it is important that businesses take some responsibility for their employees not only for their good but also to reduce staff absence. By implementing these measures where possible, you can begin to do this.