A lot of Americans can and should work from home during the novel coronavirus pandemic, but many have no choice but to show up to work.
Everyone from health care workers to grocery store clerks to bank tellers to mail carriers are putting themselves on the front lines of a battle against the virus just by doing their jobs.
Here are a few tips for workers to protect themselves if they have to clock in despite COVID-19.
Try to maintain distance
For some jobs it’s pretty much impossible to maintain any distance from customers or coworkers, but wherever possible workers should try to physically separate themselves from others by six feet. Employees at grocery stores should advocate for plastic barriers at checkout lines, as some chains have implemented, while delivery people should drop off packages without interacting with residents wherever possible. When distance isn’t possible, avoid direct touching.
Dr. Rachel Bender Ignacio, assistant professor in the Division of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the University of Washington in Seattle, explains to Forbes that employees in workplaces that often see outside customers should post visual instructions about safe practices. While almost everyone has heard recommendations from health and government authorities, visual reminders can help set expectations for how to navigate particular spaces safely. Delivery workers can provide verbal warnings to customers before approaching the front door too.
Clean your way in and out
Bender Ignacio also points out that many health care workers have started habitually cleaning their way into and out of rooms, wiping down doorknobs and other common surfaces every time they come and go. This leaves the room (relatively) safe for the next worker to enter. Bender Ignacio suggests other workers, like house cleaners, should consider similar strategies.
Keep hand sanitizer close by
While most people should leave the masks to those health care workers who need them, many workers can benefit by keeping hand sanitizer close at hand. This is especially important for employees who can’t run off to the bathroom to wash their hands for 20 seconds after every interaction.
Protect your family
Many health care workers have shared their routines for arriving home. Often they remove potentially contaminated clothing immediately and throw it in the wash, before showering themselves. Anyone who believes they are showing symptoms should do their best to self-isolate and get tested if the condition worsens.