I was fortunate to engage with a few people on social media regarding the novel coronavirus (declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation), which has now also tested positive on Namibian soil as of 13 March 2020.
My general observation is that there are very few people out there who have a reasonable understanding about this Covid-19 – the majority are reasoning based on news headlines and public opinions, which are causing unnecessary panic and discomfort.
As for the workplace, this is a time for employees and employers to come together and establish how they are going to make sure they continue to operate amidst this pandemic. Organisations are established to achieve certain goals (one-off and continuous), meaning even with the Covid-19, these goals need to be achieved, of course, without risking the health and safety of anyone.
Employees, first and foremost, protect yourself. The good thing about the novel coronavirus is that it is not airborne, and according to experts, the most effective way to protect yourself is by constantly washing your hands with a disinfectant soap and water, and avoid touching your face, as the virus can enter the body through your eyes, nose and mouth.
Gloves and masks are a bonus if you can get them, so please do, but if you cannot, do not panic.
A typical day at work involves you making contact with the following items, which can be a possible host for the virus: doorknobs, taxi doors, seat belts, money, keys, cellphone, keyboard, kettle handle, and your coffee mug.
There are many places you can pick it up from, and that is why almost all the experts are putting much emphasis on proper handwashing because even if you pick it up and it is on your hands, it still hasn’t entered your body, hence you have the opportunity to kill it by washing your hands with a disinfectant soap and water. Practise proper hygiene.
We have been informed to avoid large crowds, unfortunately, places of employment also fall under this category, and most of us do not have the authority to decide not to go to work, and this is where I would like to address the employers.
Employees are your most important assets, an unhealthy workforce means low productivity, and that leads to low profits for the organisation. What can employers do? We need to restructure, change the organisational culture if need be, reduce working hours, introduce different shifts so that you have few employees in at the same time.
For employees who do not need to be at work to perform their tasks, please grant them permission to work from home, and provide them with the necessary tools. For employees who are needed to be at the workplace to perform their tasks, ensure that they are safe from Covid-19 by encouraging good hygiene practices all the time, and make sure that there are enough taps with running water and are accompanied by disinfectant soaps.
While we clean our hands, let the general cleaning of the workplace continue – use the prescribed detergents to clean the workplace, and give more attention to surfaces where the virus is most likely to survive, as it can survive for hours.
In all that we do, let us protect ourselves. Make sure that you regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your face, also make sure that your workplace and home are clean.
*Tuuda Haitula is a human resource (HR) practitioner. The views and opinions expressed herein are purely his.