For most of us, our awareness of COVID-19 began as seemingly silly string messages on social media somewhere in January 2020. I still vaguely remember some of these posts amongst the flood of comedic posts that described a virus that did not seem threatening at first.
Now suddenly, I look at a world that has been turned upside down, and that is probably an understatement. COVID-19 has literally changed life on Earth, and with the impact, this virus has on every living person, we must pay serious attention to our working environment.
It has been mentioned, by a few experts, that the virus would be stopped dead in its tracks if every single person in the world was able to isolate for around 21 days. This sounds simple and effective, but not possible as money does not generate itself and we must work to stay alive. The irony is that our working environments are the perfect breeding grounds for a super spreading virus. Employees coming together from all areas in different forms of transport contribute to an ideal environment for a highly contagious disease.
Our working environments must be geared for maximum resistance to the virus, meaning we need to keep our distance and wear our masks to curb airborne transmission and we need to sanitize and decontaminate day in and day out. All of us know these health protocols very well and accomplishing this seems rather simple, certainly on day one, perhaps on day two, but now, as the “novelty” of the virus is starting to wear over 250 days later, this “new normal” is not “new” anymore. Our health in the workplace is in jeopardy because there is a serious lack of consistency all around us.
In my role, I am fortunate to travel from workplace to workplace advising and assisting clients on all matter related to health and safety compliance. I have however noticed that things are not as they should be. Masks are becoming less present and if they are present, masks are worn under the nose or even under the chin. Sanitiser stations are deserted and often the bottles are not filled in the latter part of the day. More and more people are reverting back to the old way of working. Smoking areas are overcrowded, with smokers chatting face to face. People are not nearly as cautious or even health-conscious as they were just a few months before.
Perhaps the most concerning thing is that the possibility of carrying the disease home to older family members or parents with comorbidities does not seem to bother people anymore. There are still workplaces where I find groups of individuals who proclaim the disease to be false and are desperate to incite others to agree with them.
The time is now for the leaders of our companies to take the ‘Wellness Torch’ to the top of the hill! Instead of offering a wellness option via apps and emailed links, let’s educate our staff on matters such as what we should eat and drink to live healthier, or how we should make exercising part of our daily routines and make healthy living an integral part of our organisational cultures. Where are the days when dad played cricket for his company team, and mom watched with a cooler box full of snacks? Is that not a culture worth pursuing once more?
It has become clear that the viruses of today are more of a danger to individuals who do not prioritize their health and wellbeing. We have to be honest with ourselves and realize that we all need to hear this message. Is stress an unavoidable reality that affects our health at work? -Absolutely. Are we too busy? Indeed, we are, but can we honestly say that we cannot find 15 minutes in a day to walk, run, cycle or even do a few sit-ups to get the blood pumping and our heart rate up? Eating healthy is also easier nowadays and there are even Apps to assist us with diet plans, recipes and so on to make it that much easier to adopt better habits.
Let us go to work with the attitude that we can save lives by being healthier. Let us follow the protocols and wear our masks correctly and continuously! Let us remind each other to sanitize and to keep our distances. COVID-19 has knocked us down, but we do not have to stay down. Your health, especially now, should be your most important mission.
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