The following is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer if legal advice is needed.
There are states ending their lockdown and contemplating a return to normal – or at least, going in that direction. The question many business owners and managers are asking is, how do we safely get back to business?
Businesses need to worry about more than safety though.
Contact tracing and testing mean people who contract Covid-19 will be able to determine where they got the disease.
Businesses can be sued just as easily and in their case, they can be blamed for mandating workers come to an “unsafe” office.
As a result, business needs to adapt – not just to federal and CDC/WHO guidelines but state/city ones as well. They may need to exceed these guidelines in many cases.
They will need to be able to show they have taken reasonable measures to protect workers and visitors.
In addition, they must consider workers who do not feel safe, will not be working efficiently and may leave to work somewhere they feel safer.
There is no way to eliminate the risk of bacterial and viral infections but they can be minimized.
These are the changes which will make the workplace safer and reduce liability:
- Infrared cameras should be used in large work areas to determine if workers are sick. While not perfect as a worker may be contagious with no temperature, this at least gives some assurance that truly sick workers are identified and dealt with. It also discourages people who feel ill from going to work. Amazon has implemented this technology and plans to spend four-billion dollars on Coronavirus protective measures for its workers.
- AI cameras should be used to ensure social distancing. Current guidelines say workers need to be six-feet apart. Cameras can accurately detect if people get too close and alert the proper people when needed.
- Bracelets that determine proximity should also be used to detect when people get too close to one another. They can vibrate, sound an alarm and/or alert management if protocols are not being followed.
- Chief Health Officers will be needed in larger companies to ensure social distancing and other guidelines are adhered to. They will also need to stay tuned to changing health guidelines to ensure their organization is always in compliance.
- Open floor plans should be replaced with high-wall cubicles and offices. These new spaces will need to meet social distancing guidelines.
- Workers should have staggered hours: 8-12 and 1-5, so as to minimize contact with one another.
- As soon as possible, testing should be done daily before anyone is allowed in the building or office.
- HVAC systems and elevators are amazing virus spreaders. The reality is, until a solution is found to the infection spreading from both of these, it won’t be completely safe to return to work. Filtration systems need to be installed, buildings need upgrading and new buildings will have to be built utilizing cleanroom type airflow systems and filtration.
- Daycare is a major challenge for parents. It is unclear how this will be handled, post-pandemic. The only safe option seems to be the daily testing of children before they are allowed into daycare.
- Videoconferencing should be used in the office so as to avoid close contact in packed conference rooms
- Corridors need to be widened to allow social distancing.
- Antimocrobial materials need to be added and used in new construction. Much of this should be borrowed from hospital best practices.
- Elevator controls will need to be touchless.
- Sneeze guards should be everywhere… In areas where people may be close. Bathrooms need tall dividers between sinks and urinals.
- Sinks and urinals need to be alternated… Every other one should be out of service.
- Shared work areas need a thorough cleaning before shift changes and technology should need to be used to ensure this gets done when an area has been utilized.
- Workplace cafeterias and kitchens must be rethought – ensuring social distancing. Buffets and salad bars should go. Workers should be encouraged to eat at their desk.
- Communal candy, chips, baskets of bagels, sweets, etc., should be gone for the foreseeable future.
- Work should be designed to be done anywhere meaning more cloud-based access, VPNs, VDI, etc. This is already a principle of Future of Work but it will have to be implemented wherever possible as the potential for future social distancing lockdown makes it necessary.
- Use of a contact tracing database and apps should be utilized to determine which workers have been in contact with someone who has a Covid-19 infection.
- Hand sanitizer should be everywhere.
- Masks should be worn often and potentially supplied.
- Signs in the office reminding people to be cautious are mandatory.
- The company must also ensure not adhering to social distancing rules could be grounds for termination. If not, they may not be considered to be serious rules.
Please contact me to learn if you need further assistance or want to join our forthcoming Pandemic Tech Alliance, an industry advocacy group focused on awareness programs for vendors creating pandemic tech solutions.