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12 Ways to Make Your Office Better for Your Health

You spend about half of your waking hours at your job. While certain jobs like construction or manual labor have clear hazards, you can’t assume that if you are clocking time in an office environment that it’s a healthy place to be. Many occupations deliver stress, sedentary behavior, and unhealthy habits along with the paycheck, which can take their toll both physically and mentally.

But whether you work from a home office or sit in a corporate cubicle, there are things you can do to make your workplace better for your health and wellbeing. Here’s how to give your office space a health makeover, according to the experts.

Remind yourself to sit less

People who work at desks should stand or walk around for at least two hours a day to avoid health risks related to too much sitting, according to a 2015 British study. “Moving around throughout your workday is really important,” says Robert Graham, MD, director of integrative health and wellness for Northwell Health System, in Great Neck, NY. “Not only is it good for you physically, but studies show that it can increase productivity and more likely to focus on the task at hand.”

Computer programs like Move for iOS or Big Stretch Reminder for Windows can remind you to take breaks at regular intervals; some even provide suggestions for stretches and exercises you can do at your workspace. Can’t install software on your work machine? Download an app to your smartphone, or use the free website RegularBreaks.com.

Clear the air

You may not be able to change furnishings or ventilation system at your job, but perhaps you can let in some fresh air by keeping windows open while you work. If that’s not an option, consider getting an air purifier with a HEPA filter for your desk.

Try a standing desk

If your workplace allows it, switching to a standing desk can help you sit less and move more during the day. But being on your feet all day can also lead to aches and pains, so look for a setup that allows you to adjust the height or your work station and use a chair when needed.

You can even make a DIY standing desk if you don’t have the space or resources for a real one; just be sure to keep your computer monitor at eye level, and your arms bent at 90 degrees to reach the keyboard, to avoid neck and arm pain.

Paint your walls green

Shades of green have been linked to enhanced creative thinking, says Sally Augustin, PhD, an environmental psychologist and principal at Design With Science. “And most of us have to be creative at work, whether we’re coming up with a new advertising slogan or figuring out how to analyze data on a spreadsheet in a different way,” she says. To get the most out of your walls, choose a hue that’s quiet and calming—like a sage or sea-foam green. “Colors that aren’t very saturated but relatively bright put us in the right sort of relaxed mental state to be doing knowledge work.”

Can’t paint your space? Wallpapering your cube with a green backdrop or adding green elements to your desk may also be helpful, Augustin says. And whatever you do, she adds, avoid red; it’s been shown to negatively affect analytical performance.

Add a plant

Bringing nature into your office can be a great way to inspire creativity and a feeling of wellness, says Augustin. “Plants are great from a psychological perspective,” she says. “You don’t want to pack too many into a small space, but it can be great to have a small plant on your desktop, or something a little larger in the corner of your office.”

Opt for green, leafy plants, rather than cacti—whose spikes can create the opposite of a relaxed feeling—or flowers with a strong scent, which can be distracting or irritating. Some plants, like the sansevieria, may even improve air quality in your office.

Display (a few) personal items

Decorating your desk can help you feel comfortable, which can reduce workplace stress and dissatisfaction, Augustin says. But to avoid a cluttered feeling, which can actually cause more stress, stick with just a few items.

“Pick out three or four things that are significant to you—like a family photo or an award you’re particularly proud of—and make sure those are in your view,” she says. “But remember that the more stuff you add to your desk, the more your brain has to constantly scan and keep track of. Working in a crowded space can be mentally exhausting, even if you don’t realize it.”

Use aromatherapy

The smell of citrus can lift your spirits and improve thinking and memory, says Augustin. “I like to keep an aromatherapy dispenser on my desk that makes my work area smell like lemon,” she says.

Skip candles and air fresheners that use artificial scents (and release potentially irritating chemicals), and opt for an essential oil diffuser that delivers a subtle, natural aroma. Keep in mind, though, that any scent may cause irritation or allergic reactions. If breathing in a scent all day bothers you, try sucking on lemon candies while you work, instead.

Stop eating at your desk

“One of the most important things you can do during the work day is to not eat at your desk,” says Dr. Graham. “Have a dedicated area where you can go to get out of your own environment and have lunch, preferably with other people, so you can truly get that break during the day.”

Sitting down to lunch away from your desk won’t just keep crumbs out of your keyboard; it can also help reset your brain for an afternoon of productivity. Plus, it can stop you from eating mindlessly while you work or surf the Internet. “We are not great at multi-tasking,” says Dr. Graham. “If you’re eating while distracted, you are much more likely to overeat.”

Pay attention to posture

Sitting all day isn’t the healthiest thing for you, but slouching all day is even worse. “Posture is very important, both to health and to workplace performance,” says Dr. Graham. “Sitting up tall gives you a sense of accomplishment, while slouching and slumping make you feel tired and lazy.” On top of that, hunching over a computer is a leading cause of back pain.

Invest in (or ask your boss to provide you with) an ergonomic desk chair that supports correct posture. You can also try a gadget like the Lumo Lift, a tiny sensor that pins to your shirt and vibrates when it senses you slouching forward.

Squeeze in mini workouts

Even if you can’t fit in a full workout over your lunch break, you can still do some simple stretches and strength moves right in your office. Keeping small workout props, like hand weights or resistance bands, within eyesight can encourage you to take exercise breaks throughout the day. “And even if you don’t have equipment, you can do things like chair yoga or standing push-ups, using nothing but your office furniture,” says Dr. Graham.

Sitting on an exercise ball can also help engage your core muscles while you work,but make sure you don’t slouch forward while you’re using it. To keep this trickfrom backfiring, swap out your desk chair for just 10 to 20 minutes at a time and payclose attention to your form.

Take your pet to work

Allowing people to bring their dogs to work reduced job stress and boosted employee satisfaction in a 2012 study from Virginia Commonwealth University. And it wasn’t just dog owners who benefited from the pet-friendly policy; other employees who came into contact with the animals reported less stress, as well.

“Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace,” the study authors said in a university news release; it’s also important to take into consideration coworkers who may be allergic to pets.

Adjust your lighting

Getting natural light during the day is ideal, so your best bet is to sit near a window if possible. In fact, people with windows in their offices get better sleep and are more physically active than those without, according to a 2013 study from Northwestern University. “Being exposed to daylight helps keep your stress levels and your circadian rhythm in check,” Augustin says.

If windows aren’t an option, consider the temperature of your office lighting. “Cooler, bluish light is generally good for analytical thinking, while warmer bulbs are better for socializing and interaction with other people,” says Augustin. Having a desk lamp you can turn on and off, rather than just one overhead light, can also help reduce eyestrain.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

5 News Years Resolutions for Office Life

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.


5 Essential Cleaning Products for your Office

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.

Disinfecting Wipes

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

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.

Glass Cleaner

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.

Air Freshener

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.

White Vinegar

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!

SOURCE: OpenWorks

5 Reasons to Vote

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. 

Make sure your voice is heard – vote


Coronavirus Testing – What You Can Do

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:

  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • Confusion
  • Trouble staying alert
  • A blue tint to your lips or face


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.

Create boundaries.

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: The Ups and Downs

As states go from opening up to closing again, it looks like we are going to continue with remote work for the time being. Google will allow remote work until at least next summer. That being said, let’s talk about the pros and cons of working away from the office.

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.


COVID-19: Returning to Work

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 return to 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.


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.


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.


Going Back to Work after Covid – Steps

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
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hand soap
  • Paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Face masks

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.

RELATED: 12 Ways to Support the Mental Health of Your Remote Workers

5. Restore Productivity

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:

  • Last name
  • Birth month
  • Time served/seniority
  • Department
  • Volunteer

With fewer people in the office, employees can spread out to keep their distance while still returning to a more “normal” work routine.

RELATED: 16 HR Trends You Need to Know in 2020 (According to Experts)

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.

SOURCE: i-sight.com

Cleaning Up After The Coronavirus

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.