Failure to properly prepare your workplace and workforce for a return to work after lockdown could have disastrous consequences as organizational outbreaks threaten business continuity in an already fragile economy, warns Dr Jedd Myers, Managing Director of OccuFit and COO of corporate health and wellness services organisation HealthInsite.

Businesses that have survived not trading during lockdown are already in an extremely precarious position and further unplanned disruptions could destroy them and have a massive ripple effect along their entire supply chain, he warns.

“Recent measures by government to flatten the curve have been highly effective and lifting of this lockdown obliges the country to follow a stringent approach that will require companies and employers to prioritise the health of their workforces far more than pre-COVID-19,” he points out. 

We have observed many business owners believing that strategically placed bottles of hand sanitiser, insisting on the wearing of masks, roving security guards with thermometers and incessantly cleaning high touch surfaces is sufficient. Whilst these measures may ensure compliance, companies require a more holistic integrated solution including broad risk analysis, testing, case management and coordination of care to remain resilient and productive in this time, Dr Myers believes.

Importantly, the workplace and workforce regulations relating to COVID-19, fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This implies that companies are required to be compliant not only with the new COVID-19 regulations, but also the general provisions of the OHSA that are relevant to their environment and industry.

OccuFit assists small to medium sized companies as well as large corporates with solutions tailor made to each company’s unique risk profile. These have been developed to ensure a holistic approach is taken, assisting companies and leaders through this challenging and often confusing time.

The risk posed by workforces is often unknown to leaders of companies; in addition to a workplace readiness assessment that identifies potential hazards and cleanliness of workplaces, he says that OccuFit has developed a comprehensive workforce risk assessment that aligns with international best practice and guidelines to truly ascertain this risk posed by incoming employees, their attitudes and behaviour. Further risks include everything from public transport to infection hotspots within the communities where employees live.

Testing remains a key cornerstone of COVID-19 interventions. One of the unanticipated risks remains the long delays while employees await test results due to massive and unavoidable backlogs at laboratories. This is amplified with the challenge around decision making regarding isolation and management of suspected cases and without test results and active management of cases, many companies remain paralysed.

Dr Myers emphasises the need for risk analysis, testing and proactive management of cases together with contact tracing and comments that “this trifecta of care ensures that companies and their management are equipped with the tools and data needed to continue to trade and return to high levels of productivity”.

He said that, just as national tracking of COVID-19 data had proved imperative when putting in place measures to flatten the infection curve, it would soon become apparent that data is just as critical when it comes to the corporate management of the spread of the virus.

“Our data scientists analyse all the data received and provide real insight into the high risk segments in your workforce and identifies employees that should be allowed to return to work, those that should maintain their WFH (Work From Home) arrangements and those requiring further testing and/or management. It provides insight into the risk of stigmatisation, the possibility of severe infection in the event of an outbreak, the risk to business continuity and productivity,” Dr Myers explains.

In addition to preventing unexpected and unnecessary shutdowns, it also prevents over reactions and enables company leaders to reassure their workforces in this highly charged working environment. “Right now, many company leaders are behaving like deer caught in the headlights and responding inappropriately to test results.”

Dr Myers said that an investment in expert advice when it comes to a managing a risk that could never have been expected could ultimately be a key differentiator between those that survived the pandemic and those that did not. This was particularly important because COVID-19 would continue for some time to come.

In addition to ensuring continuity of trading, implementation of a comprehensive programme would allow companies to confidently and proactively respond to COVID-19, be fully compliant and ensure that employees remained motivated, productive and resilient, he concluded.