Keeping Employees Safe in 2021 and Beyond
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the global workforce in a variety of ways, with employee health and safety catapulted to the forefront of business concerns. Even with vaccination rollouts and months of experience navigating a worldwide pandemic, the future of the global workforce remains uncertain.
When Alibaba.com surveyed 5,000 SMB decision-makers in September 2020, keeping employees healthy and safe while reopening in-person operations was reported as the number one concern among employer firms in 2021.
Safely returning to work is a difficult undertaking when you can’t get the protective supplies you need in a timely manner. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). You might remember reading articles with jarring headlines like “The mask shortage is forcing health workers to disregard basic coronavirus infection control,” or “Food worker advocates say lack of PPE endangering nation’s food supply.” Maybe you heard about doctors and nurses decontaminating single-use PPE for reuse. The PPE shortage took the U.S. by storm and forced every organization to rethink these essential products we often took for granted.
The U.S. relies heavily on other countries to manufacture and ship PPE. Sophisticated supply chains are in place to ensure hospitals and healthcare systems receive the correct amount and quality of PPE, as needed. But as global supply chains experienced massive disruptions, there was a considerable mismatch in supply and demand.
The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that the “rising demand, panic buying, hoarding, and misuse [caused] severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment.” The global supply chain was in complete disarray, so prices surged and supplies took months to reach their final destination.
Companies large and small worked together and pivoted to help address this PPE shortage. When CEO of Salesforce Marc Benioff heard that the University of California San Francisco, a major medical provider in the Bay area, was running dangerously low on PPE, he called on trusted partners to resolve the issue. Within hours, Benioff was reviewing trusted suppliers who could fulfill Salesforce’s request — fast. In a matter of weeks, he helped secure 60+ million pieces of PPE for U.S. frontline healthcare workers.
This sourcing experience is in sharp contrast to the chaotic efforts of other hospitals, healthcare systems and government agencies. According to The New York Times, “While states have had to compete against one another for scarce supplies and the strategic national stockpile of protective gear is depleted, Mr. Benioff and his team simply called up their business partners” and delivered millions of pieces of PPE in weeks.
Now, more than a year into the pandemic, organizations are actively planning creative and efficient ways to re-open their workplaces. If you’re one of the many businesses planning to reopen, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the safety of your employees.
Provide PPE to Employees
Despite the loosening of restrictions, it’s still important to maintain the utmost in safety by disinfecting surfaces, practicing social distancing, and following the most current health and safety guidelines. All workplaces should make sure to stock up on face masks, face shields, hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. The best way to do so is by working with a team that can tap its vast network of suppliers and ensure the goods you need get to you exactly as described, fully inspected, up to the quality standards you expect and within your budget.
Institute Temperature Checks
Many organizations that have already reopened require temperature checks. It’s a common action that employers are putting in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Station employees at the entrance with contactless thermometers or install automated temperature checks to protect workers from infection and to assure them it is safe to return.
Reconfigure the Workspace
Position desks and workstations according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) social distancing guidelines. Install plexiglass partitions if your employees meet with customers. Make walkways one way and increase signage about wearing a mask, hand washing and social distancing.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for safely returning to work. An office with an open floor plan requires different safety tactics than an assembly line in a warehouse. Tailor your safety measures based on your unique business environment.
Keeping employees safe without access to the critical supplies you need can be an unsettling thought. To stay ahead of the curve, let the experts do the work for you.