by: Zyra Japitana
After almost 2 months of Enhanced Community Quarantine, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases recently published resolution no. 35 series of 2020, lifting ECQ on low- and medium-risk provinces, HUCs, and ICCs in the Philippines. This means that even in the midst of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ), some industries will now be allowed by the government to resume its operation.
Looking ahead, companies are already starting to plan and organize return to work guidelines to grapple with the so-called ‘new normal’. Although it should be noted that no return to work provision will be a one-size-fits-all. It should be employer-specific and will definitely require creativity, flexibility, and a lot of consideration on the employer’s end.
Let’s take a look at how companies around the world are doing it.
In most companies, majority of their workers continue to work from their homes. For example, when IBM began adding back their workers in China and South Korea, only those employees who would need on-site laboratories and equipment were asked to report back to their offices. The vast majority of their workers continued to work remotely. The same goes for Intel, where the workers on site were only limited to those with critical functions.
In China, companies ensure that no more than 50% of their employees are working in the office at a time, maintaining at least 1-meter distance.
Social distancing, also known as physical distancing, is one of the most common guidelines that should strictly be observed to avoid or slow the spreading of the virus. It has been recommended to keep at least a meter distance, as already mentioned from the example above.
A lot of effort has been put in place so employees will oblige to social distancing such as taking out furniture in other spaces, closing non-essential facilities, limiting elevator crowd to a maximum of 6 people through placing markers on elevators, removing more than 50% of seats in cafeterias, conference rooms and other crowded areas, and eliminating shared serving tools in cafeterias. Some company laboratories and plants in China also ensure to sustain A and B shifts, with no face-to-face interaction when doing shift handovers.
A company in China created an internal application similar to the software created by the Chinese government to keep track of the health status of their employees. The employees were to answer the Daily Health Questionnaire. This questionnaire asks for details about the employee’s travel history, health, and mood. The application then spits out a color (green (symptom-free), or red (with symptoms)), which will be presented to the guards upon entering the building. They also track the employee’s temperature several times a day, where the results will be submitted to the internal application.
Aside from ensuring the safety of their workers, IBM also generated a visitor screening questionnaire where visitors with meetings that has to be done in-person will be screened 24 hours before the scheduled meeting. Before the entering the premises, they will require their visitor to wear a mask made available at their reception desk. This is to ensure safety not only of their workers, but of their clients as well.
Some restaurants in China ask their customers to provide their contact information before getting a table to dine inside. This is so that when any of their customers will report symptoms of the virus, it will be easy to track and communicate with the other customers who may have had contact with the patient.
Companies distribute face mask to all their workers and will be required to wear it for their whole duration of stay inside the premises. Hand sanitizers are produced and provided, as well as the installation of signs and posters around the office that should remind employees to wash their hands, observe social distancing, and be reminded of the local ordinances.
Companies also reported that cleaning of workspaces with appropriate safeguards during the day helps in making the employees feel more comfortable and safer than by cleaning it during the night.
Before reporting back to their offices, Tesla lets all employees undergo an online safety video training to communicate what they need to expect as they return to their workplace or as the company resumes its operations. Tesla also believes in cross-training team members for them to be able to perform critical functions in case of an unexpected absence of any of their team member.
See photo: Tesla’s safety training video in Workday (Photo retrieved from Tesla)
New prototypes are coming out in the market as we face the global pandemic today. Companies are now digitizing tasks that previously required a manual operation. Property Management companies, for example, are using the ManagedPMO platform to in managing their commercial and residential sites remotely through the application.
See photo: A software by Robomo Inc. that allows easier management of commercial and residential sites (Photo by: Robomo Inc.)
Other high-tech companies are also inventing hands-free door openers and making use of 3D printing. Like how the owner of DBB Ltd, Steeve Brooks, invented the Hygienehook. It is a small and non-porous device that can easily fit in to the pocket that prevents anyone to touch surfaces such as door handles and cupboard drawers. Companies that do not have access to this kind of technology are encouraged to make use of door stops or other material that keeps people from touching common surfaces.
These are only a few of the practices that the companies across the globe are (or will be) imposing. As we work towards the new normal, let us try to consider and address the critical needs. The decision we make today determines our tomorrow.