By: Chris Macdonald6 min read
Many feared the COVID-19 pandemic was going to a long haul.
The sudden appearance of the new Omicron variant of the SARS-Cov-2 virus has just confirmed the hypothesis.
Millions of people in the UK were beginning to look forward to a ‘normal’ Christmas. Employers have been progressing plans to reopen workplaces.
There was concern about the number of reported weekly infections. But the number of people admitted to hospital has been relatively low.
Psychological and economic shock
In these circumstances, many were beginning to see an end to the health crisis. The emergence of Omicron (even the name feels more threatening than previous variants) has changed that.
The government says there is no need to panic, while introducing tougher infection control measures. From Tuesday 30th November, for example, masks must be worn in shops once more.
No one wants to go back to the days of lockdown. Employers will be dismayed that the Omicron variant has been identified just as plans have been accelerating to return colleagues to the workplace, albeit with more flexible work patterns for many.
The new variant is clearly a significant concern in terms of health. However, it is just as much a social, psychological and economic shock.
Many companies continue to take additional measures to allay concerns and protect their colleagues and clients. The arrival the Omicron variant suggests these will have to continue and probably need to be strengthened.
Hygiene attitudes changed
As many have commented, including me, attitudes to cleanliness and hygiene in the workplace have changed for good. There is no going back to laissez-faire approaches.
That is why there has been an explosion of innovation in workplace hygiene in the last 18 months.
For example, our super-tough and long-lasting antimicrobial coating, Touchpoint Shield, has been well received.
It has been installed in shopping centres, restaurants, factories and even one of the UK’s top nuclear research centres.
Our clients see the long-term benefits, way beyond the pandemic to take internal hygiene to a new level and realise other benefits, not least controlling the cost of high touchpoint surfaces.
In terms of Omicron, it is fear of the unknown that will be of greatest concern until more is known about how the Omicron variant spreads through communities and just how bad it might be.
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Omicron – fear of unknown
Scientists have talked about how it has so many more spikes – the structured that break into human cells – which could make it more infectious
A BBC journalist reported that one scientist said the mutation was “horrific”. Experts have talked about vaccines being less effective against it.
Others have predicted Omicron may actually cause milder illness and that the vaccines we now will be able to cope well with the new variant.
The truth is, we just do not know yet. Scientists around the world have only just started gathering data. It will be weeks, at least, until the full impact of the Omicron variant will be understood.
In the meantime, employers will be keen not to lose the ground gained in rebuilding workplace teams and the confidence employees have regained in working closely together once more.
Protecting workforce confidence
What the Omicron variant has demonstrated is that taking action to protect that confidence in the workplace is going to be critical. Also that employers must demonstrate they are doing all they can to protect colleagues while they are at work.
One way to do this is to double down on basic hygiene. Hand hygiene and surface hygiene have always been of critical importance to infection prevention and control.
The pandemic, and shocks like the Omicron variant confirm this, and emphasise the psychological component of our response to infection threats.
Employers have been increasingly aware of care factors in workplace management – supporting wellbeing and mental health as well as physical amenities. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major test of this forward-thinking approach.
So, as we enter a period of renewed uncertainty, caused by the impact of the Omicron variant – with others possibly queuing behind it – what can employers do to enhance the workplace and maintain confidence?
Keep up guard on hygiene
As I have argued, one clear decision is to not let the guard down on workplace hygiene. In fact, now is the time to commit to taking it to a new level.
Installing Touchpoint Shield™, a concept developed by SafeGroup, a leading national specialist cleaning and hygiene protection specialist, would be a practical and cost-effective step.
The product combines a near-invisible nano-ceramic coating, which is extremely tough and hard-wearing , with silver ion technology that’s proven to destroy bacteria and viruses, plus mould and fungi.
Touchpoint Shield™ is scientifically proven in laboratory studies to be up to 99.9% effective against the SARS-Cov-2 virus. It is just as effective against the flu virus which is also predicted to be more virulent and deadly this winter than in past years.
The coating is also effective against the vomiting bug, Norovirus, which can spread rapidly through work teams and is responsible for thousands upon thousands of lost work days every year.
What we can also say with confidence is that Touchpoint Shield™ is just as effective against the Omicron variant as it is against all other SARS-CoV-2 variants.
That is because it does not matter how many spikes it has, it is still a coronavirus and Touchpoint Shield™ is effective against all of them.
So, as we deal with the new uncertainties caused by the Omicron variant, there is one certainty – doubling down on workplace hygiene makes sense.
And consideringTouchpoint Shield™ as a cost-effective and sustainable option to do that is one of the most rational move’s an employer could make right now. It beats panicking.