Your monthly dose of insightful Project Management articles

Your monthly dose of Project Management articles.

Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19


In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China to be a Public  Health Emergency of International Concern.  WHO stated there is a high risk of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreading to other countries around the world.

WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, long term success cannot be taken for granted. All sections of our society – including businesses and employers – must play a role if we are to stop the spread of this disease.

How COVID-19 spreads

When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects - such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu. Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care. Risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.

This document gives advice on:

  1. Simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in yourworkplace
  2. Howto manage COVID-19 risks when organizing meetings & events
  3. Things to consider when you and your employeestravel
  4. Getting your workplace ready in case COVID-19 arrives in yourcommunity


1. Simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace

The low-cost measures below will help prevent the spread of infections in your workplace, such as colds, flu and stomach bugs, and protect your customers, contractors and employees.

Employers should start doing these things now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate. They can already reduce working days lost due to illness and stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 if it arrives at one of your workplaces.

  • Make sure your workplaces are clean andhygienic
  • Surfaces (e.g.desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly
  • Why? Because contamination on surfaces touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways that COVID-19spreads
  • Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors andcustomers
    • Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure these dispensers are regularlyrefilled
    • Display posters promoting hand-washing – ask your local public health authority for these or look
    • Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefings at meetings and information on the intranet to promotehand-washing
    • Make sure that staff, contractors and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap andwater
    • Why? Because washing kills the virus on your hands and prevents the spread of  COVID- 19
  • Promote good respiratory hygiene in theworkplace
    • Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefing at meetings and information on the intranet
    • Ensure that face masks1 and / or paper tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing ofthem
    • Why? Because good respiratory hygiene prevents the spread ofCOVID-19
  • Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business
  • Brief your employees, contractors and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) needs to stay at They should also stay home (or work from home) if they have had to takesimple

1 Ordinarysurgical face masks rather than N95 face masks

medications, such as paracetamol/acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, which may mask symptoms of infection

  • Keep communicating and promoting the message that people need to stay at home even if they have just mild symptoms ofCOVID-19.
  • Display posters with this message in your Combine this with other communication channels commonly used in your organization orbusiness.
  • Your occupational health services, local public health authority or other partners may have developed campaign materials to promote thismessage
  • Make clear to employees that they will be able to count this time off as sick


2. How to manage COVID-19 risk when organizing meetings & events

Why do employers and organizers need to think about COVID-19?

Organizers of meetings and events need to think about the potential risk from COVID-19 because:

  • There is a risk that people attending your meeting or event might be unwittingly bringing the COVID-19 virus to the meeting. Others might be unknowingly exposed toCOVID-19.
  • While COVID-19 is a mild disease for most people, it can make some very Around 1 in every 5 people who catch COVID-19 needs hospitaltreatment.

 Key considerations to prevent or reduce COVID-19 risks BEFORE the meeting or event

  • Check the advice from the authorities in the community where you plan to hold the meeting or Follow theiradvice.
  • Develop and agree a preparedness plan to prevent infection at your meeting or
    • Consider whether a face-to-face meeting or event is Could it be replaced by a teleconference or onlineevent?
    • Could the meeting or event be scaled down so that fewer peopleattend?
    • Ensure and verify information and communication channels in advance with key partners such as public health and health care
  • Pre-order sufficient supplies and materials, including tissues and hand sanitizer for all participants. Have surgical masks available to offer anyone who develops respiratory
  • Actively monitorwhere COVID-19 is  Advise participants in advance that if they have any symptoms or feel unwell, they should not attend.
  • Make sure all organizers, participants, caterers and visitors at the event provide contact details:mobile telephone number, email and address where they are  State clearly that their details will be shared with local public health authorities if any participant becomes ill with a suspected infectious disease. If they will not agree to this they cannot attend the event or meeting.
  • Develop and agree a response plan in case someone at the meeting becomes ill  with symptoms  of COVID-19 (dry cough, fever, malaise). This plan should include atleast:
    • Identify a room or area where someone who is feeling unwell or has symptoms can be safelyisolated
    • Have a plan for how they can be safely transferred from there to a health
    • Know what to do if a meeting participant, staff member or service provider tests positive for COVID-19 during or just after themeeting
    • Agree the plan in advance with your partner healthcare provider or health

DURING the meeting or event

  • Provide information or a briefing, preferably both orally and in writing, on COVID-19 and the measures that organizersare taking to make this event safe for
    • Build trust. For example, as an icebreaker, practice ways to say hello without
    • Encourageregular hand-washing or use of an alcohol rub by all participants at the meeting or event
    • Encourage participants to cover their face with the bend of their elbow or a tissue if they cough or Supply tissues and closed bins to dispose of themin.
    • Provide contact details or a health hotline number that participants can call for advice or to give
  • Display dispensers of alcohol-based hand rub prominently around the
  • Ifthere is space, arrange seats so that participants are at least one meter 
  • Open windows and doors whenever possible to make sure the venue is well
  • If anyone who starts to feel unwell, follow your preparedness plan or call your
    • Depending on the situation in your area, or recent travel of the participant, place the person in the isolation Offer the person a mask so they can get home safely, if appropriate, or to a designated assessmentfacility.
  • Thank all participants for their cooperation with the provisionsin place.

AFTER the meeting

  1. Retainthe names and contact details of all participants for at least one  This will help public health authorities trace people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 if one or more participants become ill shortly after the event.
  2. If someone at the meeting or event was isolated as a suspected COVID-19 case, the organizer should let all participants know They should be advised to monitor themselves for symptoms for14 days and take their temperature twice a day.
  3. If they develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever (i.e. a temperature of 3 C or more) they should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close contact (1 meter or nearer) with other people, including family members. They should also telephone their healthcare provider or the local public health department, giving them details of their recent travel andsymptoms.
  4. Thank all the participants for their cooperation with the provisions in

3. Things to consider when you and your employees travel

Before traveling

  • Make sure your organization and its employees have the latest information on areas where COVID-19 is spreading. You can find this at
  • Based on the latest information, your organization should assess the benefits and risks related to upcoming travel
  • Avoid sending employees who may be at higher risk of serious illness (e.g.  older employees and those with medical conditions such  as diabetes, heart and lung  disease) toareas where COVID-19 is 
  • Make sure all persons travelling to locations reporting COVID-19 are briefed by a qualified professional (e.g. staff health services, health care provider or local public healthpartner)
  • Consider issuing employees who are about to travel with small bottles (under 100 CL) of alcohol-based hand This can facilitate regularhand-washing.

While traveling:

  • Encourage employees to wash their hands regularly and stay at least one meter away from people who are coughing orsneezing
  • Ensure employees know what to do and who to contact if they feel ill while
  • Ensure that your employees comply with instructions from local authorities where they are traveling. If, for example, they are told by local authorities not to go somewhere they should comply with Your employees should comply with any local restrictions on travel, movement or largegatherings.

When you or your employees return from traveling:

  • Employees who have returned from an area where COVID-19 is spreading should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days and take their temperature twice a
  • Ifthey develop even a mild cough or low grade fever (i.e. a temperature of 3 C or more) they should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close  contact (one  meter or nearer) with other people, including family members. They should also telephone their

healthcare provider or the local public health department, giving them details of their recent travel and symptoms.


4. Getting your workplace ready in case COVID-19 arrives in your community

  • Develop a plan of what to do if someone becomes ill with suspected COVID-19 at one of your workplaces
    • The plan should cover putting the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others in the workplace, limiting the number of people who have contact with the sick person and contacting the local health
    • Consider how to identify persons who may be at risk, and support them, without inviting stigma and discrimination into your This could include persons who have recently travelled to an area reporting cases, or other personnel who have conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness (e.g. diabetes, heart and lung disease, olderage).
    • Tell your local public health authority you are developing the plan and seek their
  • Promoteregular teleworking across your  If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community the health authorities may advise people to avoid public transport and crowded places. Teleworking will help your business keep operating while your employees stay safe.
  • Develop a contingency and business continuity plan for an outbreak in the communities where your businessoperates
    • The plan will help prepare your organization for the possibility of an outbreak of COVID- 19 in its workplaces or It may also be valid for other healthemergencies
    • The plan should address how to keep your  business  running even if a significant  number of employees, contractors and suppliers cannot come to your place of business -  either due to local restrictions on travel or because they are
    • Communicate to your employees and contractors about the plan and make sure they are aware of what they need to do – or not do – under the Emphasize key points such  as the importance of staying away from work even if they have only mild symptoms or have had to take simple medications (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen) which may mask the symptoms
    • Be sure your plan addresses the mental health and social consequences of a case of COVID-19 in the workplace or in the community and offer information and
  • For small and medium-sized businesses without in-house staff health  and  welfare  support, develop partnerships and plans with your local health and social  service  providers in advance of any
  • Your local or national public health authority may be able to offer support and guidance in developing your



Now is the time to prepare for COVID-19. Simple precautions and planning can make a big difference. Action now will help protect your employees and your business.

How to stay informed:

Find the latest information from WHO on where COVID-19 is spreading:

Advice and guidance from WHO on COVID-19


Published at with the consent of the author

Hani Hmedeh

About author

Founder of Zmaestro ◼️ Consultant ◼️ Mentor |

View all articles