Employee safety is a top priority after the COVID-19 outbreak. Many businesses are struggling after the economy shut down. Even though it feels like we have been in the pandemic for a long time, it’s only been a matter of a few months since the first case was reported in the United States.
Everyone must continue to take precautionary measures to protect themselves and others from infection. Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines will slow the spread of coronavirus but won’t eliminate it. In the meantime, companies are searching for ways to generate revenue again. That usually means calling employees back in, even if it is only in a limited capacity.
For most businesses, training is a normal part of operations. Workers want to improve and expand their skill sets, which creates stronger, more capable teams. Employee training is also necessary when hiring new people or preparing others for new job roles within the organization.
The bottom line is that eventually, businesses will have to find a way to safely resume employee training while mitigating the risk of COVID-19. The following list will help you keep your workers safe as we navigate this new “normal” after the pandemic.
Safety Starts Before Your Employees Return to Work
This tip should apply to your company as a whole rather than just your training classes. All surfaces should be wiped down and disinfected before workers come back. This is especially important for frequently used surfaces like doorknobs and light switches.
You should have a plan moving forward to ensure that these objects continue to be wiped down throughout the workday.
Remember that there is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning simply wipes germs away, but disinfecting destroys them. You should always clean first and then apply a disinfecting product. Doing it this way will clear away dirt and debris that bacteria and viruses can hide under so that they are destroyed when the disinfectant is applied.
Have a supply of gloves on hand so that the person responsible for cleaning and sanitizing can protect themselves. Gloves should be removed and immediately discarded without touching clean surfaces when finished.
Make Sanitizer Stations Available in Every Training Class
Your office, store, or facility should have sanitizer stations. These should be placed at convenient locations where people tend to congregate. Everyone should have access to one so that they can get hand sanitizer anytime they need it.
Training classes often pull employees away from their usual workstations. New hires may not have a workstation yet, so they may not be aware of where these stations are. Show everyone where to go to sanitize and make sure a station is placed inside the training room or very close by.
Someone should also be responsible for keeping sanitizer stations fully stocked throughout the day. The station won’t serve its purpose if it is empty. Having them close by will remind workers to practice good hygiene habits that reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Organize Smaller Training Groups with Spaced Out Seating
The smaller the group size, the easier it will be to manage the risk of infection. Reduce group sizes to the bare minimum. Pay attention to health department guidelines in your area, which usually outline maximum gathering sizes.
If you must offer in-person training, then you should arrange the classroom so that trainees are at least 6 feet away from one another. Place desks or chairs where needed and remove the rest to discourage workers from sitting too close together. Marking floors with tape is also a helpful solution in case furniture gets moved around.
Make Wearing a Mask Mandatory for All Trainees
Some people view face masks as controversial because N95 masks are hard to find and the non-N95 versions aren’t as effective. The reality is that something is better than nothing. Even a homemade cloth mask can reduce the number of germs expelled from the mouth and nose.
The CDC reported that COVID-19 can spread between people who are in close proximity to one another. This often occurs through coughing, sneezing, or speaking. Social distancing can be difficult in some workplaces. Even a homemade cloth mask can help reduce the chances of virus transmission.
It’s important to note that fabric and surgical masks don’t guarantee protection. They can lower the risk of someone who is asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic from infecting others.
Even when wearing masks, everyone should continue to use other precautions like frequently washing hands and social distancing. The mask is only an additional layer meant to help reduce the risk rather than eliminate it.
Stop Using Hard Copies of Training Manuals and Documents
Any object that is passed from one person to another has the potential to carry the virus. Remove all hard copies of training manuals, worksheets, and other documents from your training room. Now is a good time to go digital with these materials.
Using digital copies cuts the cost of buying paper and ink and reduces the need for physical storage. It’s healthier for the environment, making this a good opportunity to adopt a better practice while keeping your trainees safe from infection.
If there are objects that must be handled, like tools or equipment, make sure they are properly disinfected and that trainees wash hands between uses.
Wipe Down All Training Rooms Between Classes
This will take more time, but it is essential to the health of your workers. Make sure training rooms are wiped down between classes. That includes desks, tabletops, counters, and seats. Someone should be assigned to this task or multiple people can do it on a schedule.
One sick person could touch a surface and easily infect many others in the process, especially when cycling multiple classes per day. Keep training rooms fully stocked with the necessary cleaners and paper towels and allow more time to prepare between classes. Having these items readily accessible will also help reduce the extra time it will take to prep the area for the next training class.
Implement a Blended Learning System with Online Access
If some of your training material doesn’t require hands-on instruction, consider implementing a blended learning system. This type of program combines in-person training with online classes. The less time your trainees spend sharing the same space, the less likely infection will be.
Many learning management systems include blended features that support this format. You can interact online and still record test scores, progress, and activities from the offline world. If you must train during COVID-19 and cannot do it all remotely, then this is the next best option.
Use Pre-recorded Webinars or Live Sessions
If you are required to provide brief training sessions for compliance or refreshers on corporate policy or similar topics, then you should consider two options: pre-recorded webinars and live sessions.
The trainer can conduct the session by themselves in front of a camera. You can distribute a link of the recording to those who need to see it and allow them to do the training from home or at their desk. This eliminates the need to put a group of people in a confined space together.
If your session requires interaction, consider a live online training session. Many LMS platforms support interactive remote training. The trainer can be watched through a streaming video while the class participates through text or voice chat. They get an experience that is similar to a real classroom without getting physically close enough to spread COVID-19.
Have a Plan for Trainees Who Feel Ill
The COVID-19 outbreak has made people afraid of infection and afraid of losing their source of income. With many businesses closing down, it is easy to understand the financial fears that come with the health concerns. This could push some to try and go to work while they feel ill.
Going to work sick is dangerous. A person could be infected with COVID-19 and mistake it for something else. Even if it isn’t coronavirus, workers should remain at home until they are well enough to return.
Encourage your employees to take care of themselves without acting on the fear of missing key training. Have a plan in place for anyone who cannot make it to work due to illness or the illness of a loved one.
If you are conducting in-person training classes, have trainers prepare an alternative that can be done online or through email. You can also offer options to join future classes or for rescheduling once the person can safely return to work. Much of this can also be managed through a solid LMS.
Take Your Training Program Completely Online
The best way to train employees right now is to do so completely online. You can find a variety of teaching aids and tools in today’s LMSs. Learners can complete and turn in assignments with timestamps and space for feedback. Most include test and quiz applications with instant grading. Many also supply collaborative features, interactive videos, and visual aids like whiteboards, chat, and forums.
Most types of training can be done remotely if you have the right technology available. Check out LMS.org to read more about a broad range of LMS platforms and how they can help you keep your training program alive without putting your workers at risk.