With South Africa now in lockdown level 3 and the government choosing to take a staggered approach to bringing the workforce back to the workplace. With these new regulations in place, many of us will be venturing back to the office or place of work over the coming days and weeks. While many will be rejoicing in the lifting of restrictions, it does not mean life will, or should, go back to normal immediately. We’ll still have to be cautious and take more precautions than before to ensure we and the people we work with are safe. While the government has released detailed safety guidelines, there are a few other things to consider from a personal perspective when heading back to the office. To make the transition a little easier for you here are 5 practical tips for going back to work.
1. Avoid mass gatherings
This rule doesn’t just apply to parties, weddings and religious gatherings, but also group spaces at the office, like your work cafeteria and large conferences. While there are recommendations on how many people should be allowed to assemble in an area, a good general rule of thumb is to avoid being in a group of more than four people. Consider that client meetings should still be conducted via video conferencing as much as possible.
In your work area, insist that there is a space of 1.5 metres between all seats and desks. The lockdown restrictions may have been relaxed but that does not mean that there is no need for social and physical distancing anymore. You spend 8-9 hours at work and must maintain a proper distance from everyone during this time, whether they seem fine or not. Wherever possible, avoid crowded lifts and take the staircase instead. Don’t forget to wear and use the necessary PPE (personal protection equipment) while you’re at the office and on your commute home to protect yourself and others.
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2. Double down on hygiene practices
You may have relaxed your hygiene practices a little while you were working from home, but heading back to the workplace you will have to ensure they are back at the highest level. Being mindful about what you touch is extremely important. Wash your hands every time you end up touching a doorknob or press the lift buttons with your bare hands. Don’t hug or shake hands with anyone and considering coming up with your own preferred greeting (like an elbow bump or a namaste) with your colleagues.
When you arrive at work, wipe down your desk, mouse, keyboard and screen daily with a paper towel and alcohol rub before you start work. If you have a habit of touching your face, try to take a break from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds so you don’t feel the need to rub your eyes. Avoid using shared cutlery from the office kitchen, rather bring your own, or if you really need to use office cutlery, try to wash it yourself.
3. Invest in a protection and safety kit
Your employer should supply you with a PPE kit but it’s best to have your own as well, as the kit supplied may be insufficient. Prepare your PPE kit before you leave the house for work – your kit should include a face cover, hand and surface sanitizer, gloves, liquid hand soap, and tissue papers. Wear the face cover as much as possible as it will keep you from touching your face too often. Use a hand sanitizer whenever you can’t wash your hands and your own hand soap when washing your hands to avoid touching too many shared items. Wear gloves when dealing with shared items – like the coffee machine or the office phone. Carry tissue papers to sneeze or cough into, to dry your hands and to turn off the sink tap.
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4. Go digital
If your company hadn’t already, proposed going digital, now is the best time to do it. Save paper as well as the risk of coming in contact with papers that other people may have handled by making your office a paperless space. Scan and send important documents instead of printing it out and placing it on someone’s desk and keep a digital signature ready for any situation where you may need it.
5. Commuting to work
Making sure you are protected on your way to work is just as important as following hygiene practices at the office. If you travel on public transport, wear a face cover and gloves while travelling. If possible, use a digital wallet to make all payments instead of handling cash. Wash your hands as soon as you reach home or office. If possible, put in a request with your manager to also allow you to move your shift or work times enough so you can travel to work and back during non-peak hours on public transport.
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