The summer of 2020 looks quite different amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many individuals are choosing to stay home instead of booking flights for summer vacations. Across the country, restaurants and storefronts are in varying phases of reopening to the public. Some states, including California, have rolled back on reopening. Restaurants that were previously told they may serve customers indoors and outdoors are pivoting to outdoors and takeout only.
As restaurants, and other businesses, work to keep their doors open and customers satisfied, it is critical to consider not only the safety but the comfort of employees.
The passing of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave to ensure the safety of both employees and customers. When employees are at work keep in mind that it’s August and cities across the United States are experiencing record-breaking heatwaves. Employees at various establishments not only have to spend their workdays focusing on hot activities, such as cooking and serving customers, or sewing garments. Now they must do so while wearing masks.
Besides providing team members with necessary PPE, how can small businesses help employees stay cool and comfortable? Here are a few recommendations for how to beat the heat while staying masked up.
Take short breaks regularly outside
Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, General Practitioner, M.D. says that it is critical for staff working indoors all day to take short breaks outside.
Taking breaks outside allows employees to feel less trapped inside their workplace. While measures are being implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus transmission indoors, headlines in the media emphasize the airborne nature of the virus. Reading grim news stories while scrolling through Twitter can lead to the feeling that individuals are trapped at work. This may cause employees to panic. As a result of a combination of panic and stress, employees may accidentally over-heat.
“Short breaks outside can help keep employees cool,” Aragona says. “This gives them the chance to take in some fresh air and calm their nerves.”
Stay hydrated in cool spaces
Sandra Hurley is the Operations Manager for Hayden Girls, a clothing company for tween girls. The company is based out of Southern California, which is currently experiencing an early start to the state’s fire season, ratcheting up the heat in the area.
“California can get pretty uncomfortable as it is but put a mask on top and it’s just sweaty and hot all day long,” Hurley says.
However, Hurley and her team are working to beat the heat while ensuring employees stay safe in their masks.
In addition to keeping air conditioning units cranked high, their company is supplying fresh, cold water to all employees. This allows everyone to stay hydrated, quenching thirst, and ensuring team members do not experience the side effects of dehydration, like headaches and lethargic behavior.
Per Aragona’s recommendation, Hurley is also setting more frequent breaks with her team members. Allowing team members extra time to step outside or go to their cars to take their masks off safely, provides an added moment of comfort and the ability to breathe a bit easier.
“We’re all new to this,” Hurley adds, “We’re trying to accommodate mask-wearing in safe conditions as best as we can without inadvertently aggravating other issues, like the possibility of heatstroke.”
Practice intelligent staff rotation
What does this phrase mean — and how is it key to ensuring employees stay cool during their shifts at work?
Yaniv Masjedi is the CMO of Nextiva, a business phone system built to enable remote work teams. Masjedi notes that it is possible for certain spaces to lower the temperature to help workers to stay cool in their masks. However, doing so in environments populated by people may cause customers to become too cold. There needs to be a healthy balance for both customers and employees.
This is where intelligent staff rotation comes in. “I recommend alternately assigning staff to cool and hot environments,” Masjdei says. “Doing so gives team members ample time to cool down by switching from working in a warm climate to a cooler one.”
Review safety protocols together — daily.
Before any employee returns to a physical location, Aragona advises employers to take the time to introduce employees to safety measures. This includes reviewing new store rules and signage guidelines together.
“Doing this before employees are expected to face the public acts as a subconscious reminder that safety protocols are in place,” Aragona says.
He also recommends reiterating these protocols with team members each morning, or before their shift begins. This is a good way to re-introduce calm and set the overall tone for the workday ahead.