Heading back to office as lockdown eases? Tips on how you can stay safe

From leaving for work to returning home – there are several things you can incorporate into your daily routine to protect yourself from the virus.
Man on bicycle rides past a mural
Man on bicycle rides past a mural

After over two months of lockdown, many people are returning to their offices as restrictions ease. This also brings with it a number of concerns on what measures and protocols to follow to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

There are several things you can incorporate into your daily routine to protect yourself from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. TNM brings you a checklist of some steps you can take.

Commute to and from work

In several cities, public transportation services such as buses, autos and app-based cab aggregators have begun functioning with strict safety regulations in place. Ensure that you are covering your face with a mask or cover. Additionally, using disposable gloves to avoid any contamination from surfaces such as bus poles, benches, seats and railings, doors etc. is another measure you can take. Maintain appropriate six feet physical distance. For those traveling in autos and cabs, stick to the permitted number of individuals (two) per cab. Dispose of the gloves upon reaching the workplace, and wash your hands or sanitize them using an alcohol based sanitizer.

To dispose of gloves in a safe manner, experts have advised to dispose of used masks and gloves by disinfecting them with 5% bleach solution. A separate closed bin should be kept aside for this purpose and must be disposed of as hazard waste as per each city corporation's guidelines.

Those who travel using their own cars or bikes should thoroughly sanitize all handles, doors and other surfaces of the vehicle before and after use.

At the workplace

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has released a set of guidelines to follow as people are returning to work. Among these, offices should ensure that employees’ temperatures are checked regularly when entering and exiting the building. Workstations should be set-up with physical distancing and/or transparent barriers to both maintain the appropriate distance and prevent any accidental transmission of the virus. Seating arrangements should also reflect these norms.

At the workplace face cover/masks should be worn at all times. The CDC also advises that ventilation systems be checked and ideally have more open windows in the offices.

When taking breaks at a common lounge or reception, offices can mark safe physical distances to ensure that people do not crowd together. Maintain appropriate space when waiting in lines at the washrooms or at cafeterias.

Keep your workspace clean. Use sanitizers and wipes to thoroughly keep your desk and space clean. This includes cleaning frequently touched articles such as laptops, desktop computers, and computer mouses. Areas/spaces which are commonly touched such as door knobs, handrails, printers, copy machines etc. should also undergo thorough and frequent disinfecting.

Common/shared spaces in the office, kitchens and washrooms must be supplied with soap and water and frequent hand washing should be encouraged. Provide sanitizers for use at desks to encourage hand hygiene practices.

Anyone who is ill should stay home and work and take appropriate caution before returning to work.

Interacting with co-workers

Avoid handshakes and hugs, and don’t sit too close to each other at the workplace even when you are taking a break or socializing with colleagues.

As far as possible, try not to share food and water and the carrying containers with co-workers to prevent any accidental transmission. Carry your own food and water bottles if possible.

If you are consuming, common food/beverages such as coffee, tea and other snacks, try to convince your workplace to provide these as prepackaged, single use items.

What to do when returning home from office

Wash your hands with soap or use alcohol-based sanitizer prior to leaving the workplace. Gloves can be worn to protect yourself from contaminated surfaces you may come in contact with such as a door knob, elevator surfaces, and railings. Those using public transport and shared rides should be wary of maintaining a safe distance from others. For those with their own vehicles, wipe down handles and surfaces with a disinfectant wipe or sanitizer.

Once you reach home, dispose of your gloves and face covering as directed by the WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines.

Footwear worn outside should be kept outside and separately. Wash your hands and feet thoroughly, if possible, take a bath before coming in close contact with other family members. Clothes worn outside should be put for wash. Dispose of all and any possibly contaminated masks or gloves in a separate bag.

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