Be honest: how many times have you said “when this is over” or “when this has passed” in the last few days? One of the things we’re doing the most during quarantine is plans. What will happen when the containment measures are lifted? How will the companies work when the quarantine is over?
The day after quarantine probably won’t be the way we imagine it. The fight against COVID-19 is a long-term race, so our survival depends on our ability to adapt. Here are our best predictions and some ideas to overcome a social distancing that may last for months after the pandemic has peaked in the UK.
Will there be a second outbreak of COVID-19?
No one has a crystal ball to predict the future. But we do know that when we get past the peak of the pandemic and the number of new infections per day starts to decrease, it will be thanks to containment measures and not because the new coronavirus has “disappeared”. SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) will continue to circle around the world and be transmitted. Therefore, there is a possibility of a new outbreak when the containment measures are lifted.
But has anything like this ever happened? Yes. The 1917-1918 Spanish flu had three waves over two years. The second was especially deadly, first because the virus had mutated; and second, because it overlapped with the last months of World War I, which caused soldiers to carry the virus around the world. In other words, it ended up affecting regions that had escaped “unharmed” from the first wave and had not developed group immunity.
Moving on to Wuhan, 2020, a Lancet study concluded that lifting social distancing measures prematurely could cause the second outbreak of COVID-19 as early as August. A progressive return of the active population to normal life is the best way to delay the second peak of contamination and “gain” time to isolate risk groups, improve the response of health systems and develop an effective vaccine on a large scale, which could take 18 months.
How can we resume normal life after COVID-19?
Despite everything, the knowledge we have about SARS-CoV-2 is still limited. All scenarios assume similar behavior to other coronaviruses. Therefore, the best way to plan the post-quarantine is to focus on the territories that have already controlled the virus and that are now returning, little by little, to life as they knew it — Wuhan, Macau, other Chinese provinces and South Korea.
How to prepare your company for the post-quarantine
With the knowledge we have today about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, we will share some of the best measures you can take in your company when returning to work after quarantine.
Progressive return to work after quarantine.
Prepare a return to work progressively in the post quarantine. Start by reopening only with “minimum services” on-site and allow all other employees to work remotely. The positive part is that, in the meantime, your team has adjusted to working and communicating from a distance.
Also, outline your team: the first group to return should be those who have recovered from infection (to be confirmed that they have antibodies against the virus and that there can be no re-infection), followed by healthy young people and other age groups without associated pathologies. Exempt the groups at risk from working in person (those over 60, people with diabetes or other autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer problems, asthma, or diagnosed with COPD).
Teams working in shifts.
Working in shifts is one of the recommendations to ensure care in homes during the outbreak. That is, for each active worker, there is someone “on the bench” available to replace them in case they have to stay in prophylactic isolation. This can be a solution for housekeeping teams and service providers that are trying to comply with all their Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
Create rotating schedules for on-site work.
If you want to assemble the team in person, pay attention to the maximum number of people who can occupy the office while keeping the recommended safety distance of at least two meters in enclosed spaces. A solution may involve creating a rotating schedule in which not all teams work on-site at the same time. For example, the marketing team can meet and work from the office in the first week of the month, the HR team in the second week, and so on. The rooms should always be airy and air recirculation through the air conditioning system should be avoided.
Prepare strategic material storage.
In addition to social distancing measures, the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to wash your hands. Increase supplies of alcohol gel (with at least 60% alcohol) and make these disinfectants available at strategic points such as doors and lifts – this strategy has been highly effective in containing the virus in Taiwan and maintains the principles used to fight the H1N1 virus in 2009. Depending on your area of operation, you should also prepare a stockpile, or at least ensure a continuous supply, of nitrile gloves and other protective materials.
Disinfection areas and laundry service.
For everyone’s safety, create an area wherein your employees can take off their uniforms and dispose of potentially contaminated materials such as gloves and masks. If possible, the uniforms should be washed at high temperatures (60 – 70ºC) and changed every day.
Reduce work travel.
Reduce work travel to a minimum. Try to provide more support to your colleagues, employees, and customers remotely, even if it means producing more complete instructions or DIY guides for simple repairs. Consider implementing contactless solutions. Keep having meetings by video conferencing and make your salespeople experts in inside sales. Discard non-essential travel, especially if you’re going to countries where the virus is still actively transmitted. There may be a learning curve here, but with all the technological solutions at our disposal, you just have to find the right tools.
Follow the guidelines of the authorities
Stay up to date with the recommendations from the World Health Organisation and the UK Government Guidelines. Many of them will continue to be needed over the upcoming months to prevent a second outbreak of the virus, so it makes sense to read them to plan your return to work.
Infraspeak will continue to publish more articles on how to react to the COVID-19 epidemic and crisis management for facility managers. We want the plans you are making during the quarantine to put in action! Subscribe to our newsletter and stay tuned to our blog for all the resources we have available on the new coronavirus.