By Aleks Sheynkman 
Vice President of Engineering
SpaceIQ

COVID-19 employee protection should be top-of-mind in any workplace that’s operating through the pandemic, as well as those about to welcome staff back. This starts with proper considerations for how employers plan to offer that protection.

Health considerations begin before an employee even walks in the building and continues through every interaction they have in the workplace. As workers come back, make sure they’re mindful of protocols that emphasize their health and that of their coworkers. Here’s how to protect employees and the considerations every employer should take.

Zero-tolerance illness policies

Protecting employees in the workplace starts by denying entry to those who feel ill, are exhibiting symptoms, or are awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test. This isn’t a malicious exclusion—it’s a preventive one. A zero-tolerance illness policy benefits employers and employees alike.

From an employer standpoint, it’s all about risk mitigation. Without testing, there’s no way to confirm or deny a case of COVID-19. All you can do is go on symptoms, which aren’t always distinct and reliable. Institute a pre-screening process and encourage employees to stay home if they’re symptomatic and do it in a way that doesn’t chastise them. Offer remote work opportunities and encourage symptomatic employees to get tested. Work can wait; their health comes first.

On the employee side, a zero-tolerance policy creates confidence. Employees won’t feel forced to work through a developing illness and won’t risk exposing their colleagues. Likewise, they’ll appreciate peers who tread cautiously and stay home.

Self-checks and PPE

The key to a zero-tolerance illness policy and mindful reporting of symptoms is to encourage self-checks before work. Plus, make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the workplace. Smart employers will mandate both.

Self-screening prompts employees to check for symptoms and mind their general health before coming into work for the day, and to stay home if they feel under the weather. Again, this coincides with a zero-tolerance illness policy. Even if it’s not COVID-19, it’s in the best interest of employers to prevent any communicable illness from entering the workplace.

If self-screening is the first line of defense against workplace transmission of coronavirus, wearing PPE is a reliable second. Face masks keep airborne virus particles at bay and keep wearers from touching their faces. Whether organizations provide PPE or mandate the type employees can use, it needs to be part of workplaces health policy.

General workplace safety considerations

Consider COVID-19 workplace protocols a third and final line of defense against the virus and a necessary baseline for employee protection. Mandate a series of “dos” and “don’ts” designed to keep employees safe through smarter interaction with the workplace. Some of the simplest and easiest to integrate into everyday practice include:

  • Avoid face-to-face meetings
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Create a “no congregation” policy
  • Do not share materials or food
  • Always maintain six feet of distance
  • No physical contact (ex. handshakes)
  • Post cleaning and decontamination procedures
  • Practice respiratory etiquette (ex. coughing or sneezing)
  • Regularly clean personal space and surfaces
  • Schedule routine cleanings for common areas
  • Wash hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds

Reinforce these new practices and standards to ensure they take hold. Send emails and memos. Post signage in common areas and where relevant in the workplace. Make sure managers set the example. Above all, make it clear that these considerations are for the health and safety of not only individuals, but everyone in the workplace.

These changes aren’t only about preventing the spread of coronavirus—they’re about protecting employees in meaningful ways. These considerations might prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 or other sickness in your workplace.

Protection is the best form of prevention

Employee protection comes from the establishment of safeguards. At the top, there’s a firm zero-tolerance policy on working while ill. To reinforce it, there’s an employee screening process. For asymptomatic employees and those in good health, there’s PPE to keep them safe at work. At the bottom of it all are workplace policies meant to bring awareness to healthy habits and practices. Together, it’s a diligent recipe for employee protection.

COVID-19 has made us more aware of health in shared spaces. Protection from pathogens and common means of transmission is the best path to prevention. Take these considerations into account as you look for ways to support a safer workplace and a healthier workforce.

Keep reading: Employee COVID-19 resources