Can the spread of workplace illness be avoided, post-COVID, by increased remote working?
Experts say home working during lockdowns has shown that people should be encouraged to work remotely in the future, if they feel slightly under the weather, in order to stop the spread of illnesses.
A report in the Independent has highlighted that there has not been a single case of influenza detected by Public Health England so far in 2021.
Whilst perhaps it could be expected that with current lockdown restrictions influenza, which has an R rate of 1.3-1.5 compared to Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – which has a basic R value of between 2.5-3.0, would not be as transmissible, it is a very dramatic decline.
Decreased social interaction, hand sanitiser and mask wearing have all contributed to the drop in influenza and the current coronavirus vaccine rollout has not impacted the estimated 15 million people who receive the flu jab every year. In fact, as Dr Vanessa Saliba, Head of Flu at PHE, told the Independent, “This season’s immunisation programme is on track to be the most successful ever, with the highest levels of vaccine uptake recorded for those 65 years and over, 2- and 3-year-olds and healthcare workers.”
But what does that mean moving forward?
Well, experts say that it shows that a virus that we once thought could not be stopped, can be severely halted. Clearly, we’re not going to go into a full lockdown every winter in order to try and stop the spread of flu, but what can be done?
In the report, Christina Pagel, a Professor of Operational Research at University College London, says that the findings do suggest that shops, workplaces and public spaces should continue to provide hand sanitiser stations and that people should be encouraged to continue to wear face masks in busy places, such as on public transport, during the winter months.
She also raised an interesting point about the British attitude to illness and work, highlighting people’s eagerness to go into work, even if they are sick. “We need to change that. We’ve shown that a lot of people can work remotely.”
Do you have a culture in place where you can encourage that mentality without it being abused. If not, how do you change that mentality and culture?
Many business have shown they can continue to operate remotely over the last 18 months, but if learnings from coronavirus can help us tackle other viruses by keeping our hands clean and limiting contact with others when sick, surely we must act upon that?
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Coronavirus advice for employers
This hub page complies all the latest government coronavirus updates. It includes what you can and cannot do in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, workplace advice from multiple sources, including information on welcoming staff back to the workplace and the latest vaccination information.
It also contains a host of useful external links and resources to find further information.