How To Work On-site Safely in the Age of Deadly Germs

By Buranond Kijwatanachai, Programme Officer
8 March 2021

With the vaccine rollouts beginning, many workers are preparing to make the transition back into on-site office work. But with second and third waves, new surges in infections, and dodgy vaccine stories; people are understandably nervous about returning to face-to-face interactions with their co-workers. The vaccine is no silver bullet and it is going to take more than just medicine for people to be able to work together safely again. The new workforce will have to be equipped with a new sense of awareness for personal hygiene and the practices that accompany it.

The AUN Secretariat is no stranger to this phenomena. The Bangkok-based office has had its share of COVID-related disruptions but is now returning safely to on-site office work with slight changes to their usual pre-COVID routine. Here are some changes routine-wise and culture-wise that have kept the Secretariat 100% COVID-free thus far.

1. Intelligence-based Personal Hygiene Awareness

Personal hygiene has become a point of great interest as a result of COVID-19. People are becoming more aware than ever of their constant exposure to germs in their daily activities. They understand now that simple contact or even just conversing with a colleague can result in disease transmission. As a result, we are taking extra precautions like wearing masks and face shields unless performing an activity that requires its removal or the frequent use of hand sanitizer whenever their hands make contact with exposed surfaces. This forms the basis for the behaviors that make every practice that will follow possible.

2. New recommendations for workspace use

To help make the workspace safer, the Secretariat has devised some recommendations as to how to limit disease transmission as much as possible based on the knowledge shared by recognized health institutions like the WHO. These recommendations include zoning areas of the office and creating maximum limits for simultaneous occupants based on the size and function of the space.

3. Highly flexible hours to avoid rush hour transits

The dangers of disease transmission for on-site working is not simply limited to the office itself but also during transit. This is why flexible working hours are important so that workers can avoid high traffic areas during peak hours, especially if they use public transport. That is why the Secretariat has allowed for workers to come into the office at flexible hours.

4. Suggestions on office socializing and meals

Socialization and eating are key parts of the human experience, but they are also high risk activities for disease transmission if you are not careful. The Secretariat, at this moment, will always wear masks and/or face shields while conversing in indoor settings. As for meals, it is common for shared dishes in Asian culture, however, at the moment all meals are not only individually served, they are also eaten separately in the interests of health safety. Additionally, to avoid cafeterias and restaurants which are usually indoor public locations, the Secretariat serves lunch for the on-site staff on compulsory work days once a month so they take fewer risks during meals.

These practices are ultimately not only done for the safety of the Secretariat staff but also for the health and safety of their family and friends as well. It is the hope of the Secretariat that these practices will be helpful for those who are seeking to keep their loved ones and themselves safe in these uncertain times.