Personal New Year’s resolutions are great but have you thought of any for the office? Most of us spent almost a third of our lives at work. Positive changes made in the office can effect other aspects of our lives. The start of a new year is the perfect time to focus on what improvements can be made going forward. Here are 5 New Year’s Resolutions for the office.
1. Become More Engaged
If this past year you haven’t been the most engaged worker, don’t fret. You can easily get back on the right track. Share around the office to get others on board too! This should be a top priority resolution because not only will you benefit, everyone around you will too. Your boss will especially appreciate the effort.
2. Eat Right
This is probably one of your personal goals, so why not carry it over to the office? Bring a bagged (reusable of course) lunch a few times a week to start. This way, you can pack healthy options instead of ordering out whatever you want. Bringing your lunch will save you money, too! Along with eating right, try to treat the kitchen at work right. Be respectful of coworkers’ items in the fridge. And, of course, clean up after yourself.
3. Go Above And Beyond
The position you hold could potentially grow into something bigger and better. This New Year, push yourself at work. Do the extra projects you wouldn’t normally do. Small tasks will add up fast and make you look like a new and improved employee and possible promotions could be on the horizon for you!
4. Communicate More Efficiently
This resolution is a must and you should work on both aspects of communication, speaking and listening! Become more aware of what needs to be addressed and address it! You will feel empowered after a long year of sitting back not contributing. While you’re at it, try to become a more attentive listener.
5. Get Positive
Work on becoming a more uplifting and optimistic worker. It will rub off on others in the office and help with everyone’s mood. Be the positivity that your coworkers need at work. While you make a change for yourself, you’ll be helping others change around you.
Start by really focusing in on a couple of these work New Year’s resolutions, and then cover the rest. And, of course, add your own to the list! Wait and see what the new year will bring to you.
Studies show that a lack of cleanliness can be a distraction, negatively impacting the amount of work that gets done in the office. Even if your office has a professional cleaning service routinely maintaining the office space, it is important to have some cleaning products on hand to keep the office spick-and-span between cleanings and in case of emergencies. These five cleaning products will keep the office presentable and germ-free on a daily basis.
These multi-purpose wipes can be used for anything from spills in the break room to cleaning up your desk. Cut down on the germs you come in contact with by using these wipes to clean your phone, keyboard and mouse daily. Reduce sick days taken by using these wipes to clean areas with lots of daily contact, like faucet handles, microwave door handles and vending machine buttons.
Spot remover can save the day if you spill coffee on your white shirt or if some of your lunch falls in your lap. Keeping stain removing items in your arsenal will keep everyone in the office looking professional despite any spills or other mishaps. Spot removers can also work on office furniture and carpets in case of emergencies.
Keeping your office looking professional and presentable is important whether or not clients are coming in on a regular basis. Make a good first impression by keeping all doors and windows clean and clear of smudges by keeping a glass cleaner in the office. To keep the doors and windows fingerprint-free, wipe down with glass cleaner daily in between professional cleanings.
The office environment should always be positive and inviting, and foul odors can compromise that! Air freshener can revive the office and help fend off nasty odors. Look for unscented options so as not to aggravate any allergies that employees may have.
If you only keep one cleaning product in your office, white vinegar should be it! It can be used to keep your windows streak- and smudge-free, and it is also a disinfectant. This cost-effective cleaner is also environmentally friendly because it contains no chemicals. Plus, if you feel like whipping up a nice lunch it can be used for that too!
Even if your office receives routine cleaning services from a professional team, it’s still important to keep some cleaning products on hand for touch-ups between cleanings or for everyday emergencies. With these products in the supply cabinet, you’ll never be caught off guard again! To learn more about the services OpenWorks offers, visit our website!
It is election day. Tensions are high. Friends are becoming enemies, and enemies, well they are still unfriended on Facebook and Twitter. This year’s election goes beyond who will be president. Your vote is your voice on issues affecting housing, education, employment and healthcare.
Help make a difference in your community during this general election. Have you registered to vote? Everyone is doing it.
Here are just a few reasons why you should get registered and vote:
1. Elections have consequences.
You have the power to decide on the quality of life you want for yourself and future generations. Voting is your chance to stand up for the issues you care about like public transportation, raising minimum wage, or funding local schools. This is your life: take the time to help decide what’s best.
2. Not voting is giving up your voice.
Elections are decided by the people who go out and vote. Take some time and learn about the measures and the candidates. If you don’t vote, someone else will make the decision for you. Your power is in your vote.
3. It’s your money.
You pay taxes, but do you know how that money is being used? Most people don’t. Voting is your chance to choose how your tax dollars are spent – such as funding for health care and social services.
4. Voting is an opportunity for change.
Do you want to make a positive impact? Voting gives you that chance! Support the candidates and ballot measures that can help your community, state, and even the nation for the greater good. Make your voice heard in these elections.
5. The community depends on you!
Our communities are made up of friends, loved ones, neighbors, and children. Some may not know how important voting is, while others don’t have the privilege. Make the decision to vote for yourself and those around you.
In light of current events, you cannot be too careful. That si why we have put together this informative post to give you the answers and resources you need. Despite this, please refer to the information given to you by the CDC if you are unsure of anything.
If you don’t feel well, you may wonder if you have COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by a new kind of coronavirus. Tests can tell whether you have it now. Antibody testing can show if you have already had it already.
There isn’t a treatment for COVID-19. So if your symptoms are mild, your doctor will probably tell you to recover at home and stay away from others.
Who Should Get Tested?
Talk to your doctor about whether you need to get tested. If you don’t have a doctor, call your local hospital or health department. Free COVID testing is available in most communities. Some locations require an appointment while others are drive-up. Antibody testing usually requires an appointment.
The CDC recommends a priority system for who should get tested for the coronavirus. At the top of the list are people who have COVID-19 symptoms and who meet at least one of these criteria:
Are admitted to the hospital
Work in a health care facility
Are first responders
Work or live in places where many people live, such as long-term care facilities or prisons
The next priority level is:
Other people who have symptoms of COVID-19
Those who don’t have symptoms but who are deemed a priority by local health departments or doctors
How to Get Tested
Call your doctor, your local hospital, the health department, or an urgent care center about testing locations near you. If you think it’s an emergency, call 911. Whoever you call, you’ll need to tell them about your symptoms over the phone or during an online visit. They may ask you some of these questions:
Do you have a fever or cough?
Do you have shortness of breath?
Have you been in close contact (within 6 feet) with someone who has COVID-19?
Has someone with COVID-19 coughed or sneezed on you?
Have you traveled recently?
Did a health official tell you that you’ve come into contact with COVID-19?
Where to Get Tested
You can check with your doctor or another health care professional, but many pharmacies and health department advertise available locations. If you are being tested at a facility for the virus or for antobodies, you will have to wear a mask and and may have to wait outside until time to be tested.
Types of Coronavirus Testing
The CDC recommends a COVID-19 test called a nasopharyngeal swab fo coronavirus. The technician will put a special 6-inch cotton swab up both sides of your nose and move it around for about 15 seconds. It won’t hurt, but it might be uncomfortable. They’ll send the swab to a lab to test the material from inside your nose.
Other COVID-19 tests include swabs of:
Your mouth and throat (oropharyngeal)
The middle of your nostrils (nasal mid-turbinate)
The front of your nostrils (anterior nares)
If you have a cough with mucus, called a “wet” or “productive” cough, your doctor might want to test some of what you can cough up.
Each state has one or more public health labs that does testing. That number is growing. For information about testing in your state, check online at the CDC.
The FDA has issued an emergency use ruling for LabCorp’s Pixel home COVID-19 test. That means you can use it even though it doesn’t have full FDA approval yet. This test has a special cotton swab that you run inside your nose, like a technician would, and mail to a lab for analysis.
The agency is also allowing use of a home saliva test from the Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory. You need a doctor’s prescription to get it. You spit into a vial and mail it to a lab.
The agency has taken similar steps with blood or “serology” tests that can look for antibodies. Your body makes them when you’ve had an infection.
These COVID-19 tests spot two types of antibodies:
IgM, which your body makes for about 2 weeks before the levels drop
IgG, which your body makes more slowly (within about 4 weeks) but which usually last longer
A swab or spit test can tell only if you have the virus in your body at that moment. But a blood test shows whether you’ve ever been infected with the virus, even if you didn’t have symptoms. This is important in researchers’ efforts to learn how widespread COVID-19 is.
Separate from the antibody tests, researchers are also studying antibody treatments for COVID-19. A drug targets how the virus attaches to and enters human cells.
Drive-through coronavirus testing
Some hospitals and agencies have set up centers where you can get a COVID-19 test without getting out of your car. You may need to register online or by phone, or you might need a doctor’s order first. Be sure to check before you go.
A technician in protective gear will ask about your symptoms and take your temperature. They’ll swab your nose or mouth and send it to a lab for testing.
How Long Do Test Results Take?
It may take a lab about 24 hours to run your test. But you might not get your results for several days based on possible backlogs in the lab. Future tests might be faster.
What Happens After I Get Tested?
A positive COVID-19 test means you currently have or recently had the virus. Monitor your symptoms and get medical help right away if you have trouble breathing, confusion, or bluish lips or face.
Take steps to avoid spreading the virus:
Stay home, except to get medical care.
Stay away from other people in your home.
Wear a mask when you are around others in the house
Don’t share dishes, cups, eating utensils, or linens with others.
Cover your coughs and sneezes. Wash your hands often.
Clean and disinfect common surfaces like phones, doorknobs, or counters regularly.
If your test is positive and you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should isolate yourself until you meet all these criteria:
It’s been at least 10 days since your symptoms began.
Your symptoms have improved.
You haven’t had a fever for at least 24 hours, without using any fever-reducing medication.
If you tested positive but didn’t have symptoms, isolate yourself for 10 days after the test.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should get tested again after isolation. There is no need to be retested if you have been in quarantine for 10 to 14 days.
If your COVID-19 test is negative, you probably didn’t have the virus at the time of the test. But you can still get sick later. Follow distancing guidelines, and wash your hands often.
There’s a very small chance that your COVID-19 test results could be wrong. This is called a false positive or false negative. Your doctor or health care professional will help you decide what to do based on your symptoms and health history.
When Is It an Emergency?
If you can’t get tested, you may still need medical help if you have a high fever or a serious breathing problem. Call your doctor or 911 to find out what to do.
Other signs that you need help right away include:
Given the fact that most businesses are offering remote work at this time, it is important to understand how to handle work and life in the same location. It’s one of the biggest work at home conundrums. You finally found a job that you love that will allow you to work from home, too. You imagine how much time you’ll save from not having to commute into an office, how much money you’ll save by not having to pay for said commute (and office wear and fancy lunches), and how productive you’ll be with all that extra time not having spent stuck in traffic.
Thing is, your work life and your personal life can easily become one big mélange of misery if you don’t try to set boundaries. Here are five ways in which you can separate work life and family life when you work at home.
Hold regular office hours.
It may seem unnecessary to have regular office hours when you work remotely. After all, isn’t the point of having a flexible schedule that you can work flexibly? But if you start and stop your workday at various times throughout the day, it can wreak havoc on your productivity. Instead of getting more work done effectively, you’ll find yourself working much longer than you need to, often when your kids are home from school or even later into the evening. So try to keep a consistent schedule, and then allow for interruptions or breaks as needed.
Work from one space.
When you telecommute, anywhere can be your office, from your local coffee shop to your car while you wait for your kid to finish her soccer practice to even the park. Even though the leaves are lovely this time of the year, you should try to find one place to primarily work from in your home. You may not have an extra room to convert into an office space, but there are other home office alternatives (such as a garage, an attic, or even a closet). Finding a dedicated space to get your work done will keep you centralized and focused. Then, when you’ve gotten the bulk of your work done for the day, you can switch it up by working somewhere else for a few hours the next day.
Ignore the distractions.
Dirty dishes. That mound of clean clothes that have to be folded and put away. When your home and your office are one in the same, distractions are plentiful, even more so than if you worked in a traditional office. If you don’t ignore the distractions, though, you’ll find that you’ll get far less work done. So as much as you’d like to have a totally clean house, you’ll need to block the mess out of your mind until you’re done with your work for the day.
You’re prepping dinner and you have your laptop open on the counter at the same time. While you might be tempted to scan your work emails as you’re tossing the salad, you shouldn’t. It’s imperative to establish boundaries when you work from home. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself working 24/7. So make every effort to be present in your life, whether you’re trying to finish up a big project or if you’re having a conversation with your 10-year-old. Setting boundaries will ultimately make you a better, stronger, and happier worker and person.
Don’t overschedule yourself.
Remote workers might feel the need to take on extra tasks, especially if some of their colleagues are still stuck working at the office when they don’t want to be. It’s important though to not overschedule yourself, as that can be a recipe for future failure. Instead, make every effort to do the best at your job by completing your assignments well and on time. If you find that you have some extra time that won’t come as a huge sacrifice to your personal life, then you can volunteer to tackle another project. That way, you’re doing your personal best, both at work and at home.
WORKING FROM HOME MAY sound like an ideal situation – especially if you’ve never done it before. What could be better than simply rolling out of bed and arriving at your home office in moments, without the hassles of first making yourself presentable and then commuting to a workplace with a boss and colleagues who may drive you crazy?
In reality, though, just like working in an office, remote work comes with pros and cons. To explore both the benefits of working from home as well as the drawbacks, I conducted informal interviews with more than 100 people with remote working jobs. Below are some of the top themes that emerged about remote workers’ favorite aspects of telecommuting and the challenges that come with a work-from-home lifestyle.
The pros and cons of working from home are:
Pro: You have flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
Con: There is no physical separation between work and leisure time.
Pro: There are fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
Con: It is easy to misread cues via electronic communications.
Pro: There is no commute time or expense.
Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.
Pro: You have flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
Con: There is no physical separation between work and leisure time.
Many who work from home lamented that they often find themselves working around the clock, since their labor has no definite start or end times. As a result, they sometimes feel like they are literally always at work, making it difficult to shift to the post-work relaxation mode that many office workers take for granted.
The absence of an obvious division between the personal and professional realms means some remote workers get distracted by housework.
“It’s a constant balancing act to make sure you’re taking enough time for your family and yourself,” says Carrie Hill, co-founder of Ignitor Digital Marketing, who has been working from home for the last six years. “The pitfall is that there’s always a computer on and available, so setting boundaries and sticking to those boundaries is pretty important.”
Pro: There are fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
It’s easier to get into a flow state of deep work when you’re in your home office without colleagues dropping by and sitting down impromptu to talk about their weekends. Limiting unnecessary interruptions from your colleagues and boss is a big plus of working from home and is one reason why many remote workers are more productive than office-based workers. While you may need to dial in for specific meetings, you’ll likely get a break from attending several others – many of which may be unnecessary to your role – that confront staff workers daily.
Con: It is easy to misread cues via electronic communications.
While few who work from home expressed feeling “lonely” as is typically assumed, many did point to the difficulty of getting the tone right in digital communication systems, such as email, chat, social media and text.
“Just like in relationships, it can be easy to misconstrue tonality of someone’s messages. We’re often blind without body language and facial expressions to rely on, and we assume the worst. Therefore, there needs to be extra effort made in maintaining positive communications,” says Michael Sunderland, managing director of Full Stack Talent.
Pro: There is no commute time or expense.
You can save a lot of money and avoid wasting hours that others spend simply getting to and from work when your office is right down the hall. Avoiding traffic battles and long-distance schleps tops the list of benefits for some of those who work from home.
“Not having to deal with commuting was a huge plus and saved me a minimum of an hour a day that I could put to better and more satisfying use,” explains Bill McCue, founder and president of his own firm, McCuenications PR.
Many remote workers also mentioned saving money by eschewing a pricey professional wardrobe unless they meet with clients.
Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.
What can be a blessing can also become a curse in the form of cabin fever. Some freelancers and others who work from home lamented that the place they work during the day is the exact same place they’ll be sitting later that evening and that getting involved in their work often translates to spending a huge portion of the day indoors. Many stressed the importance of scheduling lunches and other meetings to keep them in the mix and avoid the rut of never leaving the house.
Remote work has clear benefits, but no situation is perfect. Understanding the reasons to work from home – as well as the reasons not to – can go a long way in learning how to work from home successfully.
With some states opening up, and others having to close again, it is imperative that you take precautions with your business when returning to work.
The question for many business owners is, “When can my staff returnto work and how can they do so as safely as possible?”
As the administration continues to discuss plans to reopen the country, the Centers for Disease Control recently unveiled new guidance for businesses to bring workers back.
They outline how business owners can determine which staff members are ready to return to work, when, and under what conditions. Their recommendations outline differing scenarios based on the employee’s current, or recently past, health status with regard to COVID-19.
THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL RECENTLY UNVEILED NEW GUIDANCE FOR BUSINESSES TO BRING WORKERS BACK. THEY OUTLINE HOW BUSINESS OWNERS CAN DETERMINE WHICH STAFF MEMBERS ARE READY TO RETURN TO WORK, WHEN, AND UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS.
What about employee privacy?
While Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules generally prohibit asking employees about their health, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confirmed employers have the right to request health information from workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Employers may ask if employees are experiencing fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or a sore throat. Be sure to maintain all health information as a confidential medical record in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
When is it safe for my employees to return to work?
Unconfirmed COVID-19 with illness
Let’s say you have an employee who has had a fever and cough, but did not get confirmation they were infected with COVID-19. They have fully recovered from their illness with or without medical intervention. Based on the CDC guidelines, you can allow them to return to work only under all of the following conditions:
At least 3 days have passed since recovery, with no fever for a minimum of 72 hours. Employees must have no abnormal temperature for 72 hours without the use of any fever-reducing medicines (aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen)
Their respiratory symptoms have improved
7 days have passed since the beginning of any symptoms
Confirmed COVID-19 with no illness
What about an employee who has been confirmed (tested positive by a medical professional) with COVID-19 but has not become ill due to the virus? They have to remain in isolation following their diagnosis. Based on the CDC guidelines, they should be able to return to work only under all of the following conditions:
After at least 7 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 test
They have not become ill
For an additional 3 days after they end isolation, they continue to limit contact (stay 6 feet away) with others
They wear a mask or other covering of their nose and mouth to limit the potential of dispersal of respiratory secretions
Confirmed COVID-19 with illness not requiring hospitalization
This is an employee who has been confirmed (tested positive by a medical professional) with COVID-19 and has become mildly or moderately ill due to the virus. These employees were the ones who self-isolated and medicated at home and did not require hospitalization. Based on the CDC guidelines, they should be able to return to work only under all of the following conditions:
At least 3 days have passed since their recovery, with no abnormal fever for a minimum of 72 hours. Employees must have no significant temperature for 72 hours without the use of any fever-reducing medicines (aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen)
Respiratory symptoms have improved
No continuing illness: the employee exhibits no symptoms of COVID-19
The employee has had 2 confirmed negative COVID-19 tests, administered by a medical professional and spaced at least 24 hours apart
Confirmed COVID-19 with illness requiring hospitalization
An employee who has been confirmed (tested positive by a medical professional) with COVID-19 and has become ill due to the virus, requiring hospitalization may be at higher risk of shedding (dispersing respiratory secretions) and spreading the infection. The CDC recommends rigorous testing before returning these employees to work since they may experience longer periods of viral detection compared to those with mild or moderate symptoms.
The CDC writes, “Severely immunocompromised patients (e.g., medical treatment with immunosuppressive drugs, bone marrow or solid organ transplant recipients, inherited immunodeficiency, poorly controlled HIV) may also have longer periods of SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection and prolonged shedding of infectious recovery.”
For those who have been hospitalized and others in high-risk categories, the contagion may last longer than for others. Further, they suggest, “placing a patient in a setting where they will have close contact with individuals at risk for severe disease warrants a conservative approach.”
The CDC recommends a test-based strategy before returning high-risk and hospitalized employees to work. Employees with conditions that might weaken their immune system may have “prolonged viral shedding after recovery.” The CDC recommends these employees discuss returning to work with their personal healthcare provider to best assess if they pose no threat to coworkers.
This may include re-testing to verify they are no longer shedding the virus. Businesses should consider each of these staff members on a case-by-case basis, requiring verified testing and return to work authorizations from the worker’s healthcare professional.
The fine print
The CDC has based these guidelines on a “time-since-illness-onset and time-since-recovery strategy.” Their site outlines the guidelines:
“This recommendation will prevent most but cannot prevent all instances of secondary spread. The risk of transmission after recovery, is likely substantially less than that during illness; recovered persons will not be shedding large amounts of virus by this point if they are shedding at all.”
Options for business
The CDC adds some employers may apply more stringent criteria to allow staff members to return to work, which may be based on whether a “higher threshold to prevent transmission is warranted.” These could include requiring:
A longer time after recovery before an employee returns to work, and/or
Requiring employees are tested for COVID-19, then adhering to the guideline’s criteria before they are allowed to return
For healthcare providers and those who work in critical infrastructure or those with “high-value human assets (i.e., military) where introduction of COVID-19 could cause major disruptions or reduce national security,” separate guidelines have been created.
EMPLOYERS SHOULD REQUIRE ANY STAFF MEMBER WHO BECOMES ILL DURING THE WORKDAY GO HOME IMMEDIATELY. DISTANCING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, MAINTAINING CLEAN SURFACES, AND WEARING MASKS OR OTHER PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) IF DEALING WITH THE PUBLIC SHOULD ALSO BE REQUIRED.
How can businesses recall workers?
Organizations should look to recall staff members on a case-by-case basis. They may consider bringing back employees who have had no symptoms of COVID-19 during their furlough/layoff initially.
The next wave of staffers for recall could be based on the CDC criteria: staff members who were ill and have recovered, either from COVID-19 or another illness, could be returned to work based on the timelines and guidelines provided above. A-symptomatic employees who tested positive for COVID-19 but did not fall ill could also be returned following the CDC protocols.
When returning these staffers to the job, safe work practices should be observed. Businesses may consider taking employee’s temperatures before they enter the building, but remember that not all COVID-19 patients experience a fever. Employers should require any staff member who becomes ill during the workday go home immediately. Distancing as much as possible, maintaining clean surfaces, and wearing masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE) if dealing with the public should also be required.
Resources that may be available
Organizations may consider working with local clinics or healthcare providers to offer testing for staff members who don’t have access to health insurance. There may be free clinics in your area, as well. Contact them, and ask if they can try to schedule potential return to work employees as a priority. It may be challenging, with few tests available, but erring on the side of safety is worthwhile.
As regions start to open up again, people will gradually begin to go back to working in their offices. In just a few months, best practices and etiquette have changed. These lifestyle changes not only apply to our personal lives, but to the workplace as well.
Returning to work after COVID-19 may be scary, awkward and jarring. To ease the transition, HR teams will need to make changes to policies, the physical workplace and their approach to employee relations. Follow these six steps to ensure your office is prepared for when employees return post-pandemic.
1. Make the Workplace Safe
Upon returning to work after COVID-19, health and safety should be your biggest focus. The first step is ensuring the physical workplace is safe for employees to work in.
First, hire a cleaning service to deep clean the entire office. Their high-grade cleaning solutions will kill more germs than typical products, plus they’ll get into every nook and cranny where bacteria and viruses could be hiding.
Ask the cleaners to disinfect both common areas and individual workspaces. This is also the perfect opportunity to shampoo carpets and clean air ducts.
Even if no one has been in your workplace for weeks, a deep clean will put employees’ minds at ease and make the office fresh and sparkling for their return.
Next, increase the standards of daily cleaning for your office. Did cleaners just focus on vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom before? Up your contract to include disinfecting work stations nightly and cleaning common areas multiple times throughout the day.
Finally, go through shared cupboards and fridges and throw out any expired consumables. Employees may not have known how long they’d be away from the office, so they may have left food and drinks behind. In addition, ask employees to clean out food stashed in their desks upon returning to work to avoid pests and mold.
2. Encourage Good Hygiene
After cleaning the workplace, it’s important to encourage employees to keep it safe and healthy. When everyone does their part, the whole office will feel more at ease.
Begin by asking managers and the whole HR team to lead by example. “You should hold yourself accountable by washing your hands, sneezing into a tissue/your elbow, [and] practicing good hygiene,” says Ken Eulo, founding partner of Smith & Eulo Law Firm. When employees see leaders following best practices, they’re more likely to do so, too.
In addition, give employees an extra reminder by hanging posters in common areas. Include information about:
Cough/sneeze etiquette (into a tissue or elbow)
Hand washing practices
Not coming into work when they feel ill
COVID-19 symptoms (because the virus likely won’t be eradicated by the time you return to work)
Lastly, make it easy for employees to follow good hygiene practices by keeping plenty of supplies on hand. Order supplies weeks ahead of returning to work after COVID-19, if possible. Stock up on items such as:
Disinfectant wipes and/or spray
Keep disinfectant in common areas so employees can wipe down counters, door handles, elevator buttons and appliances after use. Place hand sanitizer around the office, too, for quick disinfecting when employees can’t wash their hands.
3. Update Policies and Procedures
The coronavirus pandemic has forever changed the way every industry does business. As a result, you’ll need to take a look at your current policies and procedures and update them to fit current best practices.
First, update your sick leave policy to include information about COVID-19. Do employees get extra days off if they test positive for the coronavirus? If so, how many? Are you offering leave for employees who live with or care for an infected person?
In the United States, requirements for extra leave are set out in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Because there could be a second wave of the virus in the winter, “employers need to think of a long-term response plan,” says Janette Levey Frisch, an employment law attorney. “Many employers are looking at this pandemic as a sprint. They are, understandably, doing their best to deal with what’s in front of them. The problem is that this crisis is shaping up to be a marathon.”
To shift your mindset from “sprint” to “marathon,” consider policy changes such as indefinite remote work for employees who can do it and more flexible attendance and paid time off.
Next, change your policies about holding meetings. Stuffing too many people into a conference room doesn’t comply with social distancing and may make some employees uneasy.
Ask employees to only fill meeting rooms up to half capacity and to hold larger meetings over video conference. This policy change could last a few weeks, apply until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine or be reinstated every flu/virus season.
If possible, consider also changing the layout of the office to give each employee more space. Rearranging work stations to separate them can help reduce the spread of germs. Workplaces that are short on space could convert meeting rooms into offices for one or two employees. Even a temporary change in layout can work wonders in putting employees’ minds at ease.
4. Support Employees’ Mental Health
Self-isolation and quarantining during the pandemic may have affected your employees’ mental health. HR teams should be aware of the potential effects and have resources ready to help.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, “people placed in quarantine or self-isolation may experience a wide range of feelings, including fear, anger, sadness, irritability, guilt or confusion. They may find it hard to sleep.” The pandemic may also increase feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.
Inform managers of these mental health effects and ask them to monitor their employees. Leftover effects from isolation plus trying to get back to a regular work routine can be tough, so it’s important to know how to spot employees who are struggling.
Gather mental health resources (e.g. mental health hotlines, local treatment centers, therapists covered by benefits) and share them via a company-wide email. You could also set up a mental health support group for employees to share their feelings and stories.
Lastly, incorporate mental health leave into your paid time off policies. Either designate a specific number of days employees can take off for mental wellness, or include them in allotted sick days. You wouldn’t want an employee to come to work with a physical illness, so let them stay home when they’re feeling mentally unwell, too.
After a few months of working remotely, employees have likely fallen into a home office routine. However, going back to commuting, earlier alarms and having less flexible work hours might feel jarring.
Dealing with reluctance to give up remote working will be one of the biggest challenges for HR teams. To ease the transition:
Be flexible with work hours for the first few weeks
Provide employees with a list of productivity resources to get them back to their routine
If their job allows it, let employees work remotely for longer
Offer to add a few remote work days each week to an employee’s contract
A major goal of returning to work after COVID-19 is to get employees back to work with as little interruption as possible. To accomplish this, make the office feel as normal as possible.
For example, ensure employees have all the equipment and supplies they’ll need to get right to work on their first day back. Keep up with workplace rituals if it’s safe to do so (e.g. signing birthday cards, dress-up/costume traditions, choosing an employee of the month).
Finally take inventory of equipment coming back into the office, such as laptops, monitors, chairs, docking stations and headsets. This key step does two things. First, it ensures that employees have everything they need to do their job. It also reduces the risk of employee theft.
6. Encourage Social Interaction
After so much time apart, socializing can go one of two ways for employees. Some might feel awkward, like they’re meeting their coworkers for the first time all over again. Others might have missed their colleagues so much that they’ll risk their health and productivity to catch up.
One option to encourage social interaction while keeping employees safe is to bring them back to the office in stages. You could do this by:
With fewer people in the office, employees can spread out to keep their distance while still returning to a more “normal” work routine.
While employees may have connected via online platforms during the remote work period, they may hesitate to keep it up once they return to the office.
“The different environment caused us to interact in ways we did not before. It just emphasizes the importance of being fresh and individualized in our communications,” says attorney Bill Nolan. In addition, he explains, “many people [are] sharing more of themselves than they ever did before. The shared focus and fear brings us together.”
Keep up that open communication and cross-department bonding by setting up special interest groups within the office. Foodies can share their latest creations or favorite restaurants on a special Slack channel. Sports fans can get together to cheer on their team at a post-work happy hour.
HR teams could even send out an employee survey about hobbies and interests. Then, match everyone with a buddy from a different department who shares their interests. Not only will employees make new friends outside of their team, but this practice can boost cross-department communications for business operations, too.
Most importantly, be flexible with employees as they reconnect. Give them time during the workday to celebrate returning to work after COVID-19, as well as catch up on personal and professional topics. As everyone gets back into “work mode,” the chattiness will subside.
Returning to Work After COVID-19
“Employers who had built a reservoir of trust and responsiveness and openness have held their own if they are an industry where that was possible,” Nolan says. “If they didn’t, they haven’t.”
Flexibility, honest communication and adherence to best practices will help ease the transition as employees adapt to the “new normal” back at the office.
The coronavirus that has infected more than 100,000 people around the world can lurk for hours on doorknobs, handrails, keyboards, elevator buttons and other hard surfaces, just waiting to be passed on to someone else. “By touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes,” a person could become ill with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, warned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That makes it imperative to thoroughly clean shared workspaces when a known or suspected exposure has been introduced by an employee or visitor. But what is the best way to disinfect a contaminated space? And how clean is clean enough? Employers are figuring it out as they go.
On March 2, the Wildhorse Casino in eastern Oregon cleared out thousands of customers within hours of learning that an employee had tested positive for COVID-19. The casino and adjacent hotel, movie theater and arcade closed for two days of deep cleaning with special disinfecting equipment typically used by hospitals.
That same week, the North Star Mall in San Antonio closed for 24 hours of deep cleaning after learning that a person who tested positive for COVID-19 had visited several stores and the food court. A nearby elementary school was also closed for cleaning after it was discovered that one of the teachers worked at the mall.
Nike went one step further that week and closed its world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., for two days of deep cleaning “out of an abundance of caution” after learning of a COVID-19 case in a neighboring town.
Closing Shop Not Possible for All Employers
However, shutting down an entire business for a deep clean is not a universal response to coronavirus exposure. It is not among the CDC’s recommendations, and it may be increasingly impractical as the virus becomes more widespread and exposures multiply. Businesses are more likely to announce general cleaning protocols and follow them discreetly when an exposure happens.
A person attended a political conference in Maryland’s National Harbor in late February and days later was diagnosed with COVID-19. The event was held at the Gaylord National Resort, operated by Marriott International, and several prominent elected officials who were there have quarantined themselves voluntarily for 14 days. But the resort did not close. On March 10, Marriott International issued a statement outlining general steps it has taken to clean common areas and seal off contaminated guest rooms. The hotel chain and National Harbor did not comment further.
Heavily used airports and transit systems continue to operate 24/7, with more frequent swabbing of handrails, doorknobs and elevator buttons. Even so, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is advising people to avoid the subway if possible and asking local employers to stagger start times to reduce congestion.
What’s most important when a workspace is contaminated is to methodically track the steps of the infected person and clean any shared surfaces they touched with effective cleaning solutions, said Andrew Rosen, vice president for sales at Commercial Cleaning Corp., a New Jersey cleaning contractor that’s been inundated with calls recently.
“You want to know where that person was in that office and then go in and clean top to bottom, disinfecting all the high-touch areas,” Rosen said. “If an area is grimy, clean it first with soap and water. Make sure there’s no dust, nothing on the surface, before you take a wipe and disinfect. Make sure the disinfectant stays on for the kill time. You know those Clorox or Lysol wipes? Most of them have a four-minute kill claim. That means the surface needs to stay wet for four minutes.”
For added security, Rosen said, some employers follow up with an electrostatic cleaning, using gun-like devices that spray a mist to envelop all surfaces in disinfectant and that have been seen in a lot of coronavirus cleanup photos. Rosen sells the devices through a separate company, and has shipped several to Washington state, where the initial U.S. cases were reported. He’s sold out now and doesn’t expect any new supplies until July. “They’re made in China,” he explained.
Federal Guidelines Issued for Coronavirus Cleaning
For businesses that prefer to handle matters themselves, several federal agencies recently released post-contamination cleaning guidelines.
Immediately following an exposure, the CDC recommends closing off areas used by the ill person and waiting 24 hours or as long as possible before beginning to clean and disinfect, opening doors and windows to improve air circulation.
It is not known exactly how long the novel coronavirus can stay alive on a surface, said Dr. Jay C. Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC. “Under real-world situations, it’s probably minutes, but it could be days,” he said. “It depends on the temperature, humidity and the type of surface.”
After cleaning off any obvious dirt from the area, businesses should disinfect shared spaces using diluted household bleach, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol, or household disinfectants effective against the coronavirus. Cleaning crews should wear gloves and wash their hands immediately after removing the protective gear.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed disinfectants currently thought to be effective and urges users to follow the directions on the product label, since some disinfectants require more time to kill the virus than others. “If the directions for use for viruses/virucidal activity list different contact times or dilutions, use the longest contact time or most concentrated solution,” the EPA advised.
The Toughest Cleaning Challenges: Airplanes and Cruise Ships
Some cleaning jobs are bigger than others. It’s hard to imagine a more complicated disinfecting challenge than an airplane or cruise ship that has carried infected passengers. Both industries have long-standing protocols for cleaning, refined through years of Ebola, SARS and other health crises and guided by CDC instructions for ships and airplanes.
Several airlines, including Delta, United and American, have issued statements regarding updated cleaning protocols, vowing to remove from service any flights that have carried passengers with COVID-19 so that the planes can be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
Princess Cruises has gone even further. In late February, the cruise line issued a high-profile request for proposals, asking for bids “for an extensive out of service cleaning, disinfection and refurbishment” of the Diamond Princess, the ship that became notorious for its excruciating weeks long quarantine in Yokohama harbor in Japan. Proposals were to address how companies would clean a long list of designated areas, including staterooms, galleys, deck areas and handrails, the medical center, and entertainment venues on the 18-deck ship where nearly 700 people tested positive for COVID-19. The proposals are to be reviewed by the CDC and World Health Organization as well as Princess. So far, no contract winner has been announced. Princess Cruises did not respond to questions about how many bids it has received.
I was thinking of posting something regarding cleaning your apartment during this pandemic. But I’m sure we’ve all done that at least 4 or 5 times in the past few weeks. Every window has been sprayed, every shelf has been dusted. I bet your homes have never looked more pristine.
Now that you’ve taken care of your exterior well being, let’s focus on your interiors. Some of you have been socially distant for some time now, and others are just getting started. Here is an article that will help you eat a little bit better than if you were in a fallout shelter with only canned beans for sustenance.
During this time, putting your nutritional needs on the back burner might feel easy. We all want one less thing to worry about in these “Hollaback Girl” days (because this sh*t is BANANAS), right?). But consider whether it’s gonna help you much in the long run, because… we might be here a while.
Keeping your nutrition on point can help you sleep better, feel better, and stay in a better mood, not to mention help keep your immune system in fighting shape — all super important in this uncharted territory.
Here are some easy ways you can keep your meals balanced, even if you’re stuck in the house for a couple of weeks (or longer) with a paltry selection of food.
You may have been keto, Paleo, or [insert eating plan here] before quarantine, but… that might not be the case now — at least not until things settle down a little.
One thing you can do to free up some much-needed mental real estate is let go of the need for perfection or even near-perfection as it pertains to your diet right now. It’s 2020, you’re quarantined, and good enough is freaking fantastic.
Hopefully you had time to stock up on your normal basics, but if not, that’s OK. Assess what you have available and do the best you can — maybe it means low carb instead of keto, or pescatarian instead of plant-based (because you just found a bunch of tuna in the back of a cabinet).
Your body needs nourishment, even if it comes from SPAM and green beans.
Not to make light of the situation, but you may as well challenge yourself to use up all the ingredients that have been sitting untouched in your pantry for months.
Yes, it’s finally time to crack open that bag of lentils or egg noodles. Go ahead and put that starting-to-freezer-burn pack of pork chops in the fridge to thaw too.
Take stock of what you’ve got and enter it all into an online tool like Supercook, which spits out hundreds of recipes you can make based on the ingredients you already have. It’s not perfect, but it’s free and does a pretty great job.
You may have a sudden and unexpected influx of idle time, especially if you can’t work from home. This can lead to eating out of boredom… because what else is there to do? Plus, with tensions running high, you may be driven to stress-eat.
To be fair, if there were ever a time to stress-eat, it’s now! Go for it — as long as it’s a few times and not a habitual unhealthy coping mechanism. Foods that may not be the most optimal nutrition-wise are sometimes just good for the soul.
In fact, research shows that eating a sugary treat like chocolate once in a while helps lift your spirits, while habitual sugar consumption may actually increase your risk for depression.
Make art (even if you think it’s bad — no one’s judging!).
On that note, you’ll need to have a plan to keep boredom-eating at bay too. That means you’ll need to fill your days with things that keep your mind and body busy.
Now is the time to catch up on all the shows in your Netflix queue, clean out your closet, give the baseboards a wipedown, write your dystopian YA novel (for real, though… too soon?), actually fold your laundry, or start practicing yoga.
We know what you’re thinking: What’s the point in meal-planning if you’re gonna be in the same place for the next 2 weeks, with time to spare?
Well, it’s a great habit to get into, and it can help ensure that you’re strategically using the food you have. Here are three easy steps you could knock out in an hour or less to meal-plan for a 2-week quarantine:
Identify the foods you have that will spoil while you’re quarantined. If they can be frozen, put them in the freezer. (Hint: A lot of things can go in the freezer, even fresh veggies — just cook them first.) The fresh food that can’t be frozen (like salad greens or fruit) is going to be first up on your meal plan.
Map out your meals. How many do you need to prep per day? How many snacks? For most people, it’s easiest to eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch and mix it up for dinner. On the other hand, since you have some extra time, you may not mind doing more cooking. Nothing wrong with that!
Choose the meals you want to include. Use a tool like Supercook and include some comfort-food recipes, family favorites, and maybe some new recipes you want to try, if you have those ingredients on hand.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but try to plan each meal with a protein source (meat, eggs, or a vegetarian protein like tofu or peanut butter), a veggie (even if canned), and a starch (like potato or bread). If you’re low carb or keto, skip the starch and double up on the veggies.
Some super-easy meals that have a lot of wiggle room as far as ingredients go (and big veggie potential) include stir-fries, soups, sandwiches, frittatas, omelets, and casseroles. And if all else fails, just put everything in a pot and call it goulash.
This one is a biggie. Even though quarantines are a bummer, they have a vital purpose. If you have to break quarantine to go to the hospital because you got food poisoning from some chicken in a dented can, it kinda defeats the purpose.
Meat: Thaw frozen meat in the fridge (if possible) or under cold running water. Leaving meat out on the counter increases the likelihood of germ growth. Also, make sure to fully cook your meat to the correct internal temperature (165°F for chicken, 145°F for pork and beef). If you don’t have a meat thermometer, make sure you’ve cooked all the pink out and that any juices coming from the meat run clear.
Canned foods: Be wary of dented cans, which may have microscopic tears where bacteria can enter. It’s best to leave them alone.
Fresh produce: Use it up first since it will likely spoil the fastest. Don’t eat produce with visible mold or spoilage or a funky smell.
Expired food: If you need to eat expired food while you’re quarantined, use your very best judgment. Smell it and look at it. If it smells bad or has visible mold growth or a change in color, toss it. If you take a bite and it tastes off or has a weird texture, don’t eat any more.
Leftovers: Get these in the fridge quickly to minimize the amount of time they spend in the “danger zone” of 40 to 140°F. Throw them out after 3 to 4 days.
Be wary of cross-contamination as well. Don’t chop salad ingredients on the same cutting board you just used for raw meat. Use a different knife too. If you’re cooking for multiple people, don’t taste as you go unless you use a clean spoon each time. And make sure to wash your hands regularly (as if you haven’t heard that enough at this point!).
These food safety practices can help keep you from getting food poisoning and from sharing germs and viruses with others who are quarantined with you.
Finally, if you don’t have enough food to last your quarantine period or enough money to place a grocery delivery order, be sure to reach out and let someone know. We are very lucky to be connected via the web through this pandemic, even in the midst of physical social isolation.
There are likely already some resources mobilized in your community to help people get food. Some places that may be able to help you or point you in the right direction are local food banks, churches, schools, restaurants, and grocery stores. Give them a call or a Facebook message.
Sticking to a routine of cooking and eating meals that are as healthy as possible — given the circumstances and what you have available — will help your body in huge ways, keeping you feeling the best you can to tackle the coming days. Stay well!