In times of a pandemic, even the most mundane decisions can carry implications for personal and public health.
What was once the simple dilemma of “What’s for dinner?” has become “Should we eat in a restaurant?” and, “If we eat out, is it safer inside, on the patio or should we just get delivery?”
The answers are not always black and white or all or nothing. Experts advise it’s about evaluating risk, weighing pros versus cons and making sure that whatever you do, you take safety precautions.
For business owners and community leaders, considering others’ safety when making choices about everything from gatherings to day-to-day operations is essential. And we’ve heard from many business owners who are trying to determine when and how to bring remote workers back to the office.
We’re often asked if our non-clinical employees are working onsite or remotely. At Texas Health, most employees in the corporate headquarters began working remotely in March. We recently assessed each business unit currently working remotely to determine the impact on departmental activities and how employee morale has fared over the past eight months. Based on feedback from our teams, Texas Health will not have non-clinical individuals return to offices in 2020.
However, that may not be feasible for all organizations. For employees and businesses returning to the office, Sharon Williamson, Texas Health’s senior director of infection prevention, recommends the following precautions:
- Don’t go to work if you’re sick and encourage others to stay home if they are ill. If you are at an increased risk for illness or live with someone who is, check with your employer to see if other work arrangements can be made.
- Wear a mask. If you work alone in a closed-door office, you can remove it, but if another person enters the office, you should both wear masks. If workspaces are located close together, consider the use of plexiglass or modular walls to provide additional barriers between staff.
- Thoroughly clean your hands upon entering your workplace and wash them frequently throughout the day. If you don’t have alcohol hand sanitizer available at your business, carry your own.
- Avoid directly touching objects such as elevator buttons and door handles and instead use your shirt, jacket or an inanimate object to open doors and push elevator buttons.
- Be particularly cognizant of keeping your distance in common areas like break rooms and around the printer. Consider drinking and eating at your desk instead of near colleagues.
- Avoid sharing objects like computers, phones and pens. When you must, disinfect the items before and after each use.
- Keep masks, tissues and hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol inside your office. Disinfectant wipes are convenient and reappearing on store shelves, but check that your product is EPA-approved.
Business owners should have robust screening programs, adequate hand hygiene stations and established occupancy limits for elevators and other tight spaces. Decals and stickers on floors, like those available for free through Texas Health’s Open Safe program, can serve as visual cues to encourage employees to keep a safe distance between each other. Business owners in North Texas explain how they’re creating safe work environments in this article.
The Open Safe program, a collaboration between Texas Health Resources and the Fort Worth Blue Zones Project, offers free guides and materials on relevant topics, including cleaning and disinfecting tips for business operators and strategies for keeping employees healthy and safe. The program also provides access to our clinical experts for any questions you and your team may have.
Recently, Dickies Arena in Fort Worth used the safety tools provided by Texas Health while hosting the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) WinStar World Casino and Resort Invitational, as seen in this video.
To learn more and to download free materials, visit TexasHealth.org/Back-to-Work-Guidelines.