How to Avoid Coronavirus Infection in the Office

It is what it is. Infections in Lagos and Ogun States and Abuja were 81, 3 and 25 respectively when the stay-at-home was imposed. As we resume work on Monday 4, May 2020, the infections have climbed to 278 in Abuja and 1,107 and 80 for Lagos and Ogun States. The lockdown was poorly policed; people mingled freely in markets and intercity travel continued. It is doubtful that Nigeria will be able to enforce the sort of safety that has accompanied partial lifting of the lockdown in Asia and Europe such as the mandatory wearing of social masks in public. Who is going to enforce the order given to buses not to have more than two passengers on a row? Or stop policemen from taking bribes to allow them do as they wish? Companies and individuals have to take extra measures to protect their staff.

Here are a few measures we are recommending (we have borrowed some of the ideas from companies we have spoken to):

  1. Work from Home: Continue to work from home if this is viable, for instance, for businesses that don’t require physical presence to deliver services or goods. This is what we have decided to do at Arbiterz as we look into how we can further leverage technology to improve remote working. In the United Kingdom, offices have been asked to stay shut; staff should keep working from home until early July.
  1. Run 50/50 Shifts: Reduce numbers of staff coming into the office by half or more. Staff can come to work on alternate days.
  1. Avoid Public Transport: As much as possible people who don’t have cars and hence have to come to work in public transport should work from home. When they have to come to work, arrangement for taxis should be made.

When you are in the office:

The new coronavirus isn’t so lethal, compared to Ebola, but it is so easy to catch and spread it.  But it is also possible and even easy to avoid catching it – the key is vigilant, unrelenting paranoia. Everyone should assume that everyone is already infected and ready to pass on the coronavirus to others in the office. The guiding principles should be slowdown and space-out.

  1. Temperature Checks, Sanitizers, and Face Masks: Conduct temperature checks before anyone is allowed to enter the office. Let everyone clean their hands with sanitizers. Facemasks should be used when in the company of any other person. Anyone coughing should be sent home.
  1. Don’t hold physical meetings. Continue to use Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts etc. Lock the conference room. For very small offices with 3-4 people, after adopting a shift system, meetings may be held in large conference rooms that allow social distancing. Otherwise, let people walk around the office gathering inputs for a meeting, preferably standing at the door. This may actually lead to more productive meetings – short on fluffy 10-minute disquisitions, with lots of compact but useful 2-minute contributions.
  1. No Congregation in the Kitchen: Or the car park or lobby. Depending on how large kitchens and tea rooms are, they should be restricted to one or two persons at a time.
  1. Appoint Wash Wardens: Everyone should take a break to wash their hands every one hour. “Wardens” should be appointed every day to prompt people to go and wash their hands.
  1. Equip and Empower Cleaners: Cleaners should wipe door handles, microwaves, photocopiers and other things people touch in the office once every hour with napkins dampened with bleach.
  1. “Don’t Touch. Clean and Wipe” Posters: All this should be typed and pasted at the entrance and on doors. An important instruction is that people should not touch their faces. Then they should wash their hands every one hour. And surfaces people touch in the office should be wiped every hour.

It’s quite easy to catch the coronavirus. But it’s also easy to avoid it. Establish a protocol to space out and keep safe. Then follow it rigorously.

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