For those that have seen the trends in France, Spain, Italy and more, it seems clear that we’re about to enter a new phase of this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic here in Connecticut: Lockdown.

As businesses can and must plan their workplaces for worst-case scenarios, it’s important to first understand that the term lockdown isn’t entirely accurate. There IS still business going on, just in far more limited quantities.

So, for perspective and for businesses trying to plan for their employees, here are some things Italy (and other nations) have implemented that could be in the cards here.  Given the speed at which this pandemic is moving, it’s not unrealistic to think this may happen this week.

What is impacted?

  • All stores except groceries and pharmacies are to be closed. (One could see “groceries” to include some big box stores like Target or Wal-Mart that double as groceries.)
  • All workplaces that are recreational or leisure in nature (what some might call “non-essential”) are closed. That would include theaters, museums, spas, gyms etc.  Those places may still have essential personnel deal with finances etc. But any public interaction is barred.
  • All restaurants and bars are closed. Initially, they were kept open but then moved to close them.  Other nations have now followed suit or, like Spain, just allow for deliveries only.
  • Some workplaces are open for now, but only essential personnel should report. If someone must travel even locally, he or she must have a work-related or family-related reason and a reason why it can’t be postponed. Public transportation and airports are continuing but frequency and services are severely curtailed.
  • All social interactions — family visits, parties, etc. — are barred.

What are some workplaces doing in Europe to keep their workplaces at a lower risk when they must work in the office or perform work in shop floors?

  • Closing internal kitchens, cafes and breakrooms to prevent employees from socializing with each other.
  • Instituting strict santitation procedures, which may include temperature checks.
  • Physically closing all conference rooms except for virtual conferences with other offices or even other conference rooms in the same building. No meetings.  Stay six feet apart from each other minimum.
  • Creating plans for staggered shifts during the day, or even staggered weeks. That way if one group gets infected or exposed, there may be another group that can still have essential functions.
  • Other services, like utilities, have instituted their own social distancing measures.

Not all of this is feasible in some workplaces. But it’s clear that this pandemic calls for unusual solutions.  The time is now to figure out what works best. The CDC and OSHA both have some suggestions on their websites.

It’s time that we are realistic with each other and with our workplaces. This is going to be a very rough 1-3 months while we go through this initial wave, unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetime.

The sooner we understand and operate for this scenario, hopefully, the better we can protect our friends, family and co-workers.

I’ll be practicing what I preach — no in-office work for me for the foreseeable future and no in-person social interaction beyond my family at home.

The more of us that can (and do) the same, the better off we will be.

Stay safe.