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The coronavirus pandemic has changed the rules at workplaces. Remote working is what is trending now... possibly, forever. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

With the global outbreak of coronavirus, here are some policies that employers, HR and safety departments can consider for maintaining a healthy workplace resilient to the spread of the virus.

Awareness sessions for employees

HR can organize COVID-19 awareness sessions for employees through the safety departments or through the company’s health insurance providers to avoid a panic and safeguard employees against potential threats. The awareness sessions include educating employees on maintaining hygiene in the workplace.

Similar to the precautions applied to avoid flu, it goes back to hygiene basics, which includes washing your hands thoroughly and more frequently, etiquettes on coughing and sneezing, and how to maintain a strong immune system.

Workplace hygiene

Ensuring that work areas as well as doorknobs are cleaned with disinfectants and all common areas have sanitizers. Making sure that water, soaps and sanitizers are available in the washrooms.

Flexible working

Companies can offer a flexible working schedule or work from home option, especially to employees who are out of the country. A two-week self-isolation policy for employees who return to work from abroad can further help prevent the chances of spreading the virus in the workplace.

Employee travel restrictions

Employers should advice employees to avoid or postpone any unnecessary travel at this stage. Employers must also consider alternative options for stranded employees who cannot return to work due to travel restrictions, such as virtual or flexible working arrangements.

Employees with symptoms of Illness

Employees who show fever or other flu-like symptoms should be encouraged to see a medical practitioner immediately and work from home instead of turning up at work, as this can risk the health and safety of other employees.

A handshake-free meeting protocol

Employers should advice staff to avoid handshakes or any physical contact during business meetings and in the workplace in general. This can include use of telephones/video conferences for business meetings instead of face-to-face, changing finger-punching attendance systems to facial identification or GPS-based attendance tracking apps, and keeping offices with the least possible users.

Contingency plans

The HR, legal and IT teams need to work in close coordination to develop contingency plans to ensure business continuity in case of the spread of infection worsening.

*Staying updated on advice from health Authorities Employers, HR and Safety departments must keep themselves updated on the advisories issued by local health authorities to ensure the safety of employees.

- Hasan Babat is Managing Consultant - HR at Tuscan.