Protecting your Workplace from Future Outbreaks

The COVID-19 outbreak has focused many owners’ and managers’ minds on the way they run their businesses. The threat has been emphasised by the increase in globalisation that has helped the spread of the pandemic.

Although the threat is diminishing in some places, the danger of coronavirus still evident and as we have seen in Victoria, it can re-emerge quickly and with some ferocity.  Consequently, companies may need to change their operations, probably permanently, to guard against future COVID outbreaks.  Let’s take a look at some of the things that we can do to help.


1. Prepare a Plan

Whatever you do, you need to document it in a plan that sets out safeguarding actions as well as a ‘disaster recovery’ plan for when a new infection strikes. That way, you will be prepared for anything and won’t be scrabbling around trying to find a solution. All members of staff should be able to access the plan, which will detail:

  • what you’re doing to protect everyone
  • emergency contact retails
  • actions if employees are infected
  • necessary changes to operations, such as supply chain alternatives if suppliers are infected.


2. Promoting Social Distancing

By now, we are all familiar with the principles of social distancing and this may well need to be continued for the time being. To avoid unnecessary contact, you may:

  • encourage more working from home, if this is practical, by providing the required technology to employees and putting the necessary policy in place
  • replace face-to-face meetings with online versions
  • cancel ‘hot desking’ policies and space out workstations more, which is made possible by the increased home working.


3. Enhanced Cleaning

Most workplaces have now increased the amount and frequency of cleaning and this will need to be continued and improved if possible. Ensure workstations are disinfected at least daily, provide hand sanitisers, encourage more frequent hand washing and request that employees with any sign of illness work from home if possible. Creating a safe environment that is as clean as it can be will be appreciated by employees and give them peace of mind.


4. Communicate Well

Good communication is important for any business but, when it comes to combating infection, it’s absolutely crucial. You need to research constantly so you are aware of the latest threats and how to deal with them. Then communicate this to all your staff, not just the management, because everyone needs to be kept in the loop.

Set up a system of weekly updates and daily messages for anything important and make sure everyone gets and reads them. And make this a two-way communication because feedback from your employees will enable you to constantly improve your system and make everyone feel they’re involved.

The current pandemic may have receded in much of Australia, but it continues to burn out of control in other parts of the world.  Even here, we have seen it escalate dramatically in Victoria from a low level and even in New Zealand where they had announced eradication, it has made recent return.  As a result, we can’t be too careful, especially at work where it could lead to serious harm to your staff, clients and your business.  However, with adequate precautions you will be able to keep everyone as safe as possible and be prepared for future outbreaks.


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Dr Schultz spent 22 years working in psychiatry and then went on to qualify as a lawyer. He has spent 34 years helping people solve problems and the unique combination of medicine, psychiatry, law and mediation provides a unique academic and practical approach to life's challenges.

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