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SAFE WORKPLACES : Your A to Z basic guide, to enable.

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The good news of the last fortnight which has cheered the world – 3 successful vaccine trials for protection against the dreaded COVID 19 virus! This could soon allow all of us to head back to our physical workspaces if we haven’t already. Wouldn’t it be fun to return safely back to the office, have those brain storming sessions with colleagues and get the work-life balance back in our lives? 

Just like we had to master the basics of remote working etiquettes, it could be time to now learn new office etiquettes for a safe return. Here is a comprehensive guide on the correct way to get ready, get set go!

1.Accessorize your work wear

When laying out your clothes the night before, it goes without saying that a mask is now part and parcel of that outfit, vaccine or no vaccine. A clean mask is the very first directive in ensuring your safety, especially when working in a closed environment such as an office. If you’re simply human and end up touching your mask a couple of times a day, it may help to carry some spares and store them in a ziploc bag once you are done using them. Washing and drying these masks, upon reaching home, would also contribute immensely to your personal safety. And avoid if you can those polypropylene blue surgical masks. They are cheap, yes. But they are also single use, and are rapidly filling our overburdened landfills. Unless you are a frontline health worker, a cloth face mask offers enough protection. 

While glasses, face shields and gloves are not mandated for office protection, those who feel the extra need or desire to take that precaution, could also carry their own pair from home and sanitize them as and when needed through the course of the day. Though none of this can beat the basic wisdom of washing your hands every couple of hours.

2. New office, new routine

Chances are that your office has had to undergo a host of new changes in this period to facilitate employee safety. Responsible organizations have implemented new tools, software, protocols or machinery. And while some of it may be difficult or new to adjust to, it’s important to be vigilant and adapt to the new norms, without kicking up unnecessary fuss.

In going about our workday, there will be several changes to our once established routines. When using elevators, for instance, use a toothpick or tissue to press the necessary buttons and avoid facing others directly. If taking stairs, avoid touching the railings, walls and make sure to pass right through the middle.

Shaking hands has gone out of fashion and hugs are a no no too, however much you’re tempted. Maintaining social distancing and reminding others to do the same, if they inadvertently get close, is now a responsible thing to do. Don’t back down, if some of your colleagues term you as a social distancing monitor. You will be doing everyone a favour by watching out for their back. Forget the coffee machine and cafeteria hangouts. Choose drafty areas, open spaces and green lawns that allow enough ventilation. Even a team meeting outdoors, can be fun. And for god’s sake and yours too, follow the company guidelines of limiting the number of people within a space. Carry a book or browse your sanitised phone, as for some time to come, we all must eat by ourselves.

Other basics, you should make a habit of include sanitizing your hands before and after using microwaves, coffee machines or sinks. Regularly wipe down your desk and your workstation, to keep it as bare as possible. It’s a great time to make your workspace, clutter free.

3. Pack your bag to the brim with those personal belongings

Be it a sanitizer, disinfectant, coffee flask, mug, plate or spoon or even a bottle of water, you’re going to want to ensure it’s your own. Chances of contact transmission increase dramatically when using un sanitized crockery or cutlery that has passed many hands before coming into yours. What’s more, you may even want to carry paper soap or an herbal sanitizer for your hands while adding in an alcohol-based disinfectant for wiping down cutlery and surfaces. So when packing your bag in the morning, remember that there’s no such thing as being too careful.

4. Arrival back home comes with its own routine

It can be exhausting being hyper-vigilant of your surroundings all day and not being able to collapse in a heap upon reaching home. But if you’re following all other measures for your safety, it’s crucial to ensure you don’t miss the last step.

Upon reaching home, its recommended to head straight in for a bath with hot water and send all your clothes for a wash. Avoid repeating office outfits, for that extra precaution, just like you would your cloth masks. Taking steam or doing gargles is also effective for ensuring early precautions against any virus that you may have been mildly exposed to.

It’s also important to disinfect your car; the steering wheel, handles and other commonly touched parts before getting in to drive it the next day. And lastly, don’t forget to disinfect that phone we spend all day on.

5. Take that sick leave already

It’s not the time to be frugal with those precious sick leaves. Even if you’re feeling mildly ill for any reason whatsoever, it’s important to do the responsible thing and call in sick. And should you find yourself sneezing or coughing within the office, use a tissue and throw it directly into the bin. Most importantly, fret less about absenteeism and entirely prioritize your wellbeing as well as that of your colleagues.

We understand that it’s exhausting to have to constantly process of what one has touched, where one has walked and what all measures one has taken. In this scenario, panic, anxiety and frustration can have us functioning on a short fuse. Remember though, someone else’s ‘new normal’ may not even remotely resemble yours, which is why it is necessary to be respectful of one another. And while it may feel like we’re traversing a minefield, if everyone looks after themselves and tries to be a little more mindful of others, we can all make offices a little bit safer for one another until this passes over and we get a safe, post vaccine world.

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