As India enters Unlock 1.0 of Lockdown 5.0, offices will soon be opening everywhere. In wake of this, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has issued guidelines on how to manage the spread of coronavirus in offices.

Employees and companies must follow the standard operating protocol (SOP) laid down by the central government. Following generic guidelines like wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet, washing and sanitising hands frequently remain unchanged. Persons above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women are advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes. 

Employees must also install and use Aarogya Setu app, self-monitor health and report of any illness, follow respiratory etiquettes and spitting is prohibited. 

Social distancing

In addition, the guidelines cover a wide range of safety practices that must be strictly followed.

Specific safety measures for offices

1. Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions.

2. Only asymptomatic staff/visitors shall be allowed.

3. Any officer and staff residing in the containment zone should inform the same to the supervisory officer and not attend the office till the containment zone is denotified. Such staff should be permitted to work from home and it will not be counted as a leave period.

4. Drivers shall maintain social distancing and shall follow required dos and don'ts related to COVID-19. It shall be ensured by the service providers/officers/staff that drivers residing in containment zones shall not be allowed to drive vehicles.

5. There shall be provision for disinfection of the interior of the vehicle using 1% sodium hypochlorite solution/ spray. A proper disinfection of steering, door handles, keys, etc. should be taken up.

6. Advise all employees who are at higher risk i.e. older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions, to take extra precautions. They should preferably not be exposed to any front-line work requiring direct contact with the public. Office management to facilitate work from home wherever feasible.

7. All officers and staff/visitors to be allowed entry only if using face cover/masks. The face cover/mask has to be worn at all times inside the office premises.

Courtesy: Reuters

8. Routine issue of visitors/temporary passes should be suspended and visitors with proper permission of the officer who they want to meet, should be allowed after being properly screened.

9. Meetings, as far as feasible, should be done through video conferencing.

10. Posters/standees/AV media on preventive measures about COVID-19 to be displayed prominently.

Staggering of office hours, lunch hours/coffee breaks to be done, as far as feasible.

11. Proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises – duly following social distancing norms be ensured.

12. Valet parking, if available, shall be operational with operating staff wearing face covers/ masks and gloves as appropriate. A proper disinfection of steering, door handles, keys, etc. of vehicles should be taken up.

13. Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc., outside and within the office premises shall follow social distancing norms at all times.

14. Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure social distancing in the premises.

15. Preferably separate entry and exit for officers, staff and visitors shall be organised.

16. Proper cleaning and frequent sanitization of the workplace, particularly of the frequently touched surfaces must be ensured.

17. Ensure regular supply of hand sanitisers, soap and running water in the washrooms.

Sanitizer safety tips

18. Required precautions while handling supplies, inventories and goods in the office shall be ensured.

19. Seating arrangements to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained.

20. The number of people in the elevators shall be restricted, duly maintaining social distancing norms.

21. For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which inter alia emphasizes that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30oC, relative humidity should be in the range of 40-70%, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.

22. Large gatherings continue to remain prohibited.

23. Effective and frequent sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with particular focus on lavatories, drinking, and handwashing stations/areas.

24. Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1% sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) shall be done in office premises and in common areas

25. Proper disposal of face covers/masks/gloves leftover by visitors and/or employees shall be ensured.

26. In the cafeteria/canteen/dining halls:

- Adequate crowd and queue management to be ensured to ensure social distancing norms.
- Staff/waiters to wear masks and hand gloves and take other required precautionary measures.
- The seating arrangement to ensure a distance of at least 1 meter between patrons as far as feasible.
- In the kitchen, the staff to follow social distancing norms.