After more than a year of dealing with COVID-19, by now, we all are aware that a face mask is incredibly effective when trying to prevent the virus. Several studies have shown that wearing face masks can reduce airborne transmission. And COVID-19 is all about airborne transmission. Let us look at this image to understand why masks are essential.
As companies have kick-started their return-to-office process, employers must put together face mask compliance policies. Philippe Weiss, President of Seyfarth at Work in Chicago, said some employees approached them asking, "I've had my shots. Now how soon can I get this darn thing off my face?"
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance highlights that fully vaccinated individuals can be unmasked in limited circumstances. However, wearing face masks is pivotal for the safety of themselves and others.
But what kind of face masks are we talking about? How can you ensure that your employees are wearing their masks?
There are primarily three types of masks. These can be categorized as:
N95 respirator: These are tight-fitting single-use masks typically made with synthetic materials such as polyester and polypropylene. N95 respirators effectively filter out at least 95% of both large airborne droplets and aerosols.
Surgical/medical masks: These are loose-fitting single-use masks made with three or more layers of synthetic materials. Surgical masks can filter out large airborne particles; however, some aerosols can leak through these. Air-containing particles can also flow around the edges.
Fabric masks: These masks are often homemade and vary widely in their construction and effectiveness. Aerosols can sometimes leak through, and air-containing particles can also flow around the edges. Experts recommend layering two fabric masks for maximum effectiveness. These masks are reusable with appropriate washing after a couple of use to decontaminate.
Smart Masks: A new line of masks has come under the spotlight. These masks come with filter fans, LED lights, audio controllers, Bluetooth connectivity, ANC earbuds, and adjustable straps. Xupermask or Will.i.am mask (thanks to Will.i.am for making public appearances in it), this prototype is gaining a lot of attention.
Here are a few ways employers can ensure face mask compliance from employees.
Communication is the key. As your employees return to work, make sure that you inform them that entry to the workplace will be prohibited without a face mask. Even for employees who are fully vaccinated, face masks are required. In March, the CDC suggested that those who are fully vaccinated can gather privately in small groups with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks. But a workplace is rarely a small gathering.
While vaccination efforts are underway, there will remain many unvaccinated individuals. Every individual is still required to wear a face mask to reduce the virus’s spread. Therefore, send out clear communication on face mask requirements.
While you communicate the face mask compliance to your employees, to ensure 100% cooperation, set out policies. The policy should require all employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks while inside the office premises. Emphasize that adherence to the face mask policy is the responsibility of each employee.
The policy should also highlight that if an employee fails to adhere to the face mask compliance policy, strict disciplinary actions will be taken.
Companies such as HubSpot, Figma, Dropbox, Reddit, Shopify, and Coinbase to name a few have adopted the hybrid work model. This has motivated them to implement the face mask compliance policy. Regular emails are also being sent out to their employees, urging them to wear face masks at all times.
The pandemic is far from over. If you are undertaking a return-to-office procedure, face mask compliance is necessary. It is the first step to prevent the spread of the virus. Provide face masks to your employees if required. But to curb this virus from creating more rampage, it is imperative that we all do our part. And face mask compliance is the first step.
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