How should businesses continue to operate with the risk of coronavirus?

Despite cases dropping, coronavirus shows no signs of disappearing. This is how businesses should continue to operate even with the risk of COVID.

After almost two years of having COVID-19 in our lives, it’s no surprise that many of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue and are looking to move forward. However, although case levels are down compared to the first and second waves in the UK, the risk of coronavirus has not ended. Infection rates continue to fluctuate, leading to ongoing conversations about the likelihood of future lockdowns and the requirement for restrictions to curb transmission.

It’s not just the health of the UK population that has been affected by the coronavirus. Businesses have had to face tumultuous changes, with periods of being forced to close, employees asked to work from home, supply chain disruption, changing consumer demand, and adapting to new operational approaches in line with government guidance. For many, there have been knock-on effects on productivity and finance, which they may still be trying to recover from.

The truth is that the threat of coronavirus may never completely disappear. While cases remain in the world, at any level, there’s still the risk of transmission. A lifestyle of interruption and moving in and out of lockdown also poses economic and social challenges.

Man at work wearing mask and looking at phone

Due to this, it’s essential that we – especially businesses – learn to live against the backdrop of COVID-19. This means finding ways to operate and maintain productivity while doing as much as possible to minimise the risk of coronavirus and protect the public.

In this guide, we explore what companies can do to adapt to the post-pandemic reality and minimise any impact coronavirus may continue to have.

  1. Maintaining hygiene
  2. Utilising testing
  3. Risk assessment
  4. Homeworking
  5. Additional measures
  6. Flexibility and resilience

Maintaining hygiene

Being hygienic has been one of the most significant recommendations made by the government and medical leaders during the pandemic. We’ve all been encouraged to wash our hands frequently and clean surfaces. With restrictions easing, there has been evidence of falling compliance to hygiene guidelines – but as the risk of coronavirus lingers, it remains an integral tool for reducing transmission.

Moving forward, retaining good hygiene practices means scheduling regular and thorough cleaning on your workspace, using adequate resources (such as disinfectants). Attention should be paid to all areas, including communal surfaces that can harbour substantial amounts of germs. This includes desks, door handles, kitchen surfaces, bathrooms, printers, shared telephones and so on.

Another crucial precaution is to encourage your staff to wash their hands regularly. The hands are one of the leading carriers of infection, so you can reduce the risk of germs spreading by promoting hand hygiene. Employees should wash their hands at regular intervals through the day (for a minimum of 20 seconds each time and covering the entire hand surface), including after using the bathroom and after covering sneezes or coughs.

If handwashing is not always a possibility – for example, if your staff are pressed for time or work on the go, hand sanitiser is an alternative option. Effective sanitisers pack significant bacteria-killing power in a limited amount of time, enabling users to protect themselves easily. The simplicity often improves compliance rates, and it is possible to get innovative solutions that actively help people form habits. Many businesses will even place sanitiser stations at entrances to encourage customers and workers to disinfect before entering the workspace.

The added benefit is that hand hygiene can help kill other types of infection, including flu, meaning you can protect your workforce against a myriad of illnesses (including any other new diseases that may come our way) and reduce sick leave.

Utilising testing

At present, it is unclear what the future of testing will be in the UK. While previously employers could access government-backed testing for their workforce, this was stopped a few months ago. Currently, employers can still set up their own processes or pay for an approved third-party provider to create one.

If testing is an option for your business, it makes sense to utilise it. By regularly testing your employees, you can be confident that everyone is safe in the workplace and catch any cases early to minimise the risk of transmission.

Close up of lateral flow test kit from the NHS

There is also the option for people to order free lateral flow tests to their home and request PCR tests if they feel unwell. It may be sensible to encourage your employees to do this if you cannot provide testing at work, particularly while it remains a free service.

As coronavirus cases dwindle and vaccination levels increase, it may be less of a priority to carry out testing. However, it remains integral as cases continue to rise in local areas, preventing coronavirus from wiping out large portions of your staff and disrupting productivity.

Risk assessment

Risk assessments have always been commonplace for businesses, though historically, they were more associated with fire safety and other occupational risks. In the post-pandemic era, your risk assessment should be equally concerned with coronavirus and other possible infections.

When undertaking a risk assessment, ask what the dangers are to your staff, customers and visitors. This includes the areas they are most likely to contract coronavirus and the implications if they do. With this understanding, focus on appropriate precautions that actively reduce infection and keep your staff safe.

By conducting a risk assessment and using that as the basis of your health and safety strategy, you can take a tailored approach to coronavirus risk in your business while investing your efforts and money into measures that you know will have a real impact. This will allow you to minimise any negative repercussions by preventing outbreaks among staff and unnecessary disruption in the long term.

Homeworking

In the crux of the pandemic, working from home became normality. For those of us who could, we shifted from our workplaces to makeshift home offices.

While workers have now been encouraged to return to businesses, many employers have chosen to continue homeworking allowances for those that want it. There are many benefits to this, such as reduced operational costs within offices (from having fewer people occupying them), better work-life balance and increased flexibility.

Person homeworking at desk

Another advantage of homeworking is that it enables staff to be productive, even if they can’t come into the office. This includes those who are told to self-isolate after contracting coronavirus or being in contact with a positive case. It may also cover those who are unwell from other types of infection without running the risk of spreading germs to others by coming into work.

If another lockdown were to occur, it might lead to homeworking being enforced once more. In this event, having the infrastructure already set up can allow for a smoother transition and reduce pressure on employers. This means that, regardless of any situation that may emerge, you can maintain productivity and generate output while protecting workers.

Additional measures

Following your risk assessment and on top of your hygiene processes, there may be additional precautions you choose to implement into your workplace to manage the threat of coronavirus. These are no longer required by law, but they can still lower the risk of transmission on an ongoing basis.

Examples of additional measures could include mask-wearing in busy spaces, spaced out workstations, screens between desks, one-way systems, and shift or break patterns that reduce crowding. It’s also recommended to introduce ventilation into your workplace as coronavirus is an airborne virus, though this may be tempting to stop in the colder months.

While the measures aren’t legally necessary right now, they will play their part in preventing COVID outbreaks among your staff. Once again, this will reduce the risk of infection impacting your workforce and protect you against outbreaks if cases were to rise. It may also help anxious employees to return to the workplace more comfortably.

Even if you do not implement measures now, it’s a good idea to understand what you might introduce if restrictions come back into play and keep hold of any required resources. This will make you prepared for whatever happens.

Flexibility and resilience

One thing that coronavirus has taught all businesses is that being agile and resilient matters. The pandemic was something nobody had dealt with before, but many adapted to the barriers and came out on the other side.

Moving forward, being resilient will continue to matter. We are still at a point where nobody knows for sure what will happen next – including rising case levels and possible lockdowns. However, the ability to be flexible and proactive will help you to overcome any future obstacles.

Man wearing mask with factory in background

This means keeping on top of government and local guidance and reacting when it changes, such as reintroducing previous measures. It also means having contingency plans ready to roll out when required.

The pandemic has also taught us that anything could happen, so these contingency plans should safeguard against a range of scenarios – including future pandemics or even the predicted flu outbreak of this year. By adapting to all scenarios, you stand a better chance of surviving the storm and ensuring the longevity of your business.

Conclusion

While the last two years has been frustrating for businesses, it is not yet the time to say the pandemic is done. The threat of coronavirus continues to lurk, which understandably makes many people nervous about what comes next. When businesses have already undergone testing times, further disruption may not be an option.

By learning to live with coronavirus, in the sense of understanding the risks on your business and taking appropriate action to protect yourself in the long term, you can minimise the consequences. This means that even if cases continue to rise, resulting in restrictions or lockdowns, you can find ways to operate without harming your staff.

If you need support in creating a resilient environment in your business that addresses the risks posed by COVID-19, we can help.

We offer a range of solutions that manage workplace safety and reduce transmission, including the innovative Orbel hand sanitiser. With its habit-forming technology and advanced germ-killing power, it can effectively decrease coronavirus spread between employees.

Get in touch today to find out more about how we can support you.