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Workplace advice

Published Updated

The article provides advice for workplaces, and advice about working from home and flexible working hours.

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The article provides advice for workplaces, and advice about working from home and flexible working hours.


The Government has introduced new, stricter measures (English version available shortly) on 05.11.20. This page will be updated.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has produced a general infection control guideline that industries, services and organisations can use to produce their own infection control guideline or industry standard adapted to their activity. In this template, there is detailed advice for work places.  

Preventing infection

The main infection control measures are:

  1. Sick people should stay at home.
  2. Good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and thorough cleaning.
  3. Measures that limit contact frequency.

The most important measure is for sick people to stay at home, regardless of the type of disease and even if they have mild symptoms. Cough etiquette and keeping a distance limit droplet transmission, while hand hygiene, and particularly avoiding touching the face with contaminated hands prevents indirect contact transmission. Consider intensified cleaning, especially for frequent touch points. Increased physical distance between people reduces the possibility for transmission, also before symptoms appear.

Sick people should stay at home

It is important that people with even mild respiratory symptoms do not attend physically at work or in other contexts where they meet others. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild and difficult to distinguish from other respiratory tract infections:

People who can be physically present:

  • People with no symptoms of illness
  • Employees, users and others who have undergone respiratory tract infections as long as they are in good general condition (they feel well and have no fever) and have a negative test for COVID-19
  • After undergoing COVID-19 infection, specific advice applies to when isolation can be lifted, specified by the health services and www.fhi.no

People who cannot be physically present:

  • People who have symptoms of respiratory tract infection, even with mild symptoms. These people should be tested for COVID-19
  • People who are in quarantine and isolation. It is important that the company communicates this to employees, visitors, customers and others.
  • Special advice on exemption from quarantine has been provided on the basis of the exemption provision in the COVID-19 regulations - see the section on home quarantine exemptions - for employees in functions that are critical to society.

If you suspect you are ill with the new coronavirus

In cases of probable or confirmed COVID-19, there are specific recommendations for isolation that apply to the person who is ill, as well as quarantine for close contacts (see Social distance, quarantine and isolation).

The municipal health services are responsible for following up COVID-19 cases and for deciding the which measures are necessary. The municipal health services define who is in close contact with the sick person and who therefore must be in quarantine (contact tracing), and whether information is needed for others.

If further measures are needed, it is the task of the municipal health service to assess and, if necessary, issue an order.

In case of illness occurring while persons are present at the workplace

Employees who become ill while at work must leave as soon as possible. Sick people who need to be collected by others must wait in a separate room or outside where there are no others. Sick people should not use public transport.

Sick people should cover their mouths and noses if they are unable to keep two metres away from others, in order to reduce the spread of infection.

Afterwards, rooms, toilets and other areas where the sick person has stayed must be cleaned. Ordinary detergents can be used. 

If someone in the household of an employee is ill

If a member of the household of an employee has symptoms of respiratory tract infection, but COVID-19 has not been confirmed, the employee may work normally. However, the employee should return home if he or she experiences symptoms of COVID-19.

If someone in the household of an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19

If a member of the household of an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19, close contacts must be in quarantine according to the advice of the health authorities. Close contacts who develop symptoms of COVID-19 shall be in isolation. All close contacts (from lower secondary school age) to people who are confirmed infected should be tested. 

Good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and thorough cleaning

Good cough etiquette and hand hygiene reduce transmission of all respiratory tract infections, including the new coronavirus. it is important that workplace management ensures that employees are familiar with the measures below and have had adequate training. Information posters should be hung in relevant places, such as entrance, common rooms, kitchens and toilets to raise awareness of infection control advice.

  • Washing with soap and water is recommended after coughing / sneezing, after visiting the toilet, before preparing food, before and after meals, after contact with animals and otherwise for visibly dirty hands.
    Alcohol-based disinfectants are effective against coronavirus and are an option if handwashing facilities are unavailable. Note that alcohol-based disinfection is not effective with visibly dirty hands, so wash hands first.
  • Hand washing or hand disinfection should be available at entrances, in canteens and all places that serve food.
  • Avoid touching your face or eyes.
  • It is recommended to have tissues / paper towels and hand hygiene facilities easily available for employees who cough or sneeze. If this is unavailable, cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow.
  • Toilets and washbasins, door handles and other frequently touched items should be cleaned frequently. Ethanol-based disinfectants can be used on visibly clean surfaces (such as handles, keyboards, telephones etc.), otherwise thorough cleaning with ordinary detergents or household bleach is recommended.
  • One should consider having permanent work spaces as far as possible, and in addition to thorough cleaning of the work spaces. When a work space is shared, it should be cleaned between each user.

See also:

Limiting contact between employees

Measures to reduce contact to prevent transmission are important in all situations and must be maintained in meetings between employees, and between employees and customers/users/clients. Where possible, a distance of at least one metre should be maintained between people through the whole working day. This also applies to shared offices. The company must consider how many people may be present depending on the area available.

Distance must be kept both at work stations and in meetings, at entrances, lifts and similar, where congestion can occur.

For many businesses, a partial home office solution, where employees have a home office one or more days per week, can be a good way to reduce the number of people who are at work at the same time. In order to reduce contact between people who work / are present at the same time, flexible working hours should be facilitated, and when possible, the same people should work / be present in the same teams/shifts.

Measures to maintain distance between people can e.g. involve removing chairs from meeting rooms and canteens / eating areas, using every other workplace in office landscapes where the distance between people is under a metre and in other small offices.

The use of digital meetings should be considered as an alternative to physical meetings, if it is not possible to maintain a good distance before, during and after the meeting.

For physical meetings, recommendations on group size and provisions in the COVID-19 regulations about events also apply.

Working from home and flexible working hours

Working from home is an important measure to reduce contact between people, both in the workplace and on public transport. Working from home is relevant as an infection control measure if:

  • Transmission in the local community or the workplace is high.
  • Recommended distance between people on public transport to and from the workplace cannot be maintained.
  • Recommended distance between people in the workplace cannot be maintained.
  • Other infection control measures make it necessary (for example, when using home schooling).
  • It is necessary to ensure business continuity in a situation where the risk of absenteeism is high.

Working from home to reduce COVID-19 transmission should be considered by health authorities and businesses. A checklist of points to consider has been written.

Evaluating the use of working from home -see table 1 below 

Working from home to maintain distance between people on public transport is especially relevant for workplaces where many employees travel to and from the workplace. This is especially applicable in and around major cities, where the pressure on public transport is great.

Businesses should consider whether working from home should be used in addition to other infection control measures in the workplace.

Working from home is also relevant for people at increased risk of severe COVID-19, where other facilitation of work is not possible or relevant. Such assessment should be done individually.

Working from home office should only be done where the quality of services can be maintained using digital solutions. For some services, including mental health, vulnerable users, immigrants, children and adolescents, building relations and providing reassurance are important and often cannot be replaced by digital services. It is important to consider whether the service quality is equitable when digital solutions are used, and perceived to be as good and available for everyone.

Transport to and from the workplace

The recommended distance of at least one metre should be kept when in transit to and from the workplace. Working from home and flexible working hours are important measures to reduce the frequency of contact in the population and the use of public transport to and from the workplace, and is relevant when the passenger capacity on public transport is limited. With the necessary infection control measures, such as fewer people being able to travel at the same time, the capacity of public transport will be limited, especially in cities.

If it is difficult to keep the recommended distance on public transport to work, the company should consider other measures to prevent employees from travelling by public transport. It may be through facilitation for use of another mode of travel, such as bicycle / electric bicycle, or availability of parking spaces.

The Government has opened for work travel without quarantine duty to and from the yellow areas in the Nordic region and other countries in the EU/EEA/Schengen area. The overview will be updated approximately every 14 days. An updated overview of which countries and areas this applies to can be found here: 

The Government's travel advice can be found here: 

Continuity planning

Workplaces should prepare for employees to be long-term absent from work with suspected or confirmed illness, or in quarantine for 10 days after close contact with infected people.

Companies that rely on continuity in the operation of critical functions may consider establishing permanent work teams or groups of employees who are physically in the workplace to prevent all employees with the same function from being exposed to infection. Workers can be divided into teams that alternate between working from home and physical presence.

Risk groups

For updated information about people who may be a higher risk of COVID-19, see

Employees belonging to groups at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be assessed individually in relation to facilitated work and must have a medical certificate.

Advice about exemptions from home quarantine for employees in critical functions to society

Separate regulations have been issued about quarantine requirements for close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and for quarantine after travelling abroad.

The regulations allow for possible exemptions from quarantine obligation for people who are essential to safeguard the operation of critical functions in society. Use of the exemption must be clarified with the corporate management.

It is emphasised that exemption from quarantine duty only applies while at work and when travelling to and from work. During leisure time, quarantine still applies. Do not use public transport to and from work.

Before making a quarantine exemption, consider the following possibilities:

  • Reallocating personnel from other parts of the business.
  • Downgrading activity.

If this is not sufficient to safeguard operations, there should be a local assessment of who should be called in to work if necessary.

Examples of employees who may be allowed to work in the quarantine period:

  • Employees who are in quarantine after travel abroad.
  • Employees who are at the end of the quarantine period (the average incubation period for COVID-19 is 5-6 days).
  • Employees who are least exposed to infection, for example, were close contacts only the day before a confirmed case developed symptoms.

The following should not be exempt from the quarantine obligation:

  • Employees with respiratory symptoms or fever. They must be isolated and not go to work.
  • Employees who, over time, have had close contact with a confirmed case with symptoms.
  • Employees who have a household member / partner with confirmed COVID-19.

People who work during the quarantine period shall:

  • Immediately leave work if they develop symptoms of infection.
  • Keep a distance from employees and others.
  • Organise work so that close contact with employees and others is limited.
  • Avoid preparing and handling food for others.
  • Be extra careful with cough etiquette and hand hygiene.

Evaluating the use of working from home

Table 1:

National/local situation

Evaluations

National or local infection burden

 - National infection situation

- Local infection situation (local and national health authorities)

Public transport

 - The need for contact reducing measures to avoid congestion in public places and on public transport (local and national health authorities)

Local situation

Evaluations

Can work be done from home

 - Working from home should only be done where the business can maintain a good quality service using digital solutions

High-risk employees

 - Working from home should be considered for people with increased risk for severe COVID-19, if other adaptation of work is not possible or relevant

Employees with mild respiratory symptoms or in quarantine

 - If possible, home office solution should be organised for employees who need to be home but who are able to work

Is it possible to maintain recommended distance commuting to work? (the workplace)

 

 - Evaluate employees' need to travel by public transport

  - Consider whether the employer can offer alternatives (bicycles, increased parking, etc.)

  - Working from home to maintain distance between people on public communication is especially relevant for workplaces where many employees use such transport for travel to and from the workplace

Is it possible to maintain recommended distance through the working day? (the workplace)

 

 - Systematically map all areas of the workplace

  - Focus areas: work station / office space / office landscape, entrances, elevators, meeting rooms, canteens, changing rooms etc.

Meetings

 - Digital meetings are recommended if the nature of the work permits

  - In case of physical meetings, adequate size of premises must be ensured to maintain distance, as well as the applicable group size and event guidelines.

Continuity planning

- Companies that rely on continuity in the operation of critical functions may consider using permanent work teams or groups of employees to prevent all employees within the function from being exposed to infection at the same time
  - Workers can be divided into teams that alternate with home office and physical presence

Working from home

- For many companies, a partial working from home solution, where employees have a home office one or more days per week, can be a good way to reduce the number of people who are at work at the same time. Aspects for assessment are:

- Tasks someone must be in the workplace to perform

- Ergonomic and social considerations, travel route, etc.

- Ensure a minimum of physical connection to the workplace

- Conducting meetings / conversations that are poorly suited for digital implementation

Travel

- Digital meetings are recommended if the nature of the work permits

Advice to sectors where employees live on site - construction companies, shipyards, ships, etc.

Workplaces where employees live for periods in barracks or similar accommodation in close proximity to each other will be particularly vulnerable to transmission. Therefore, it is especially important to intensify hygiene measures and limit contact between employees in these workplaces.

Advice

  • People with respiratory tract symptoms must not go to work or stay in common living areas.
  • People with respiratory tract symptoms should be tested for COVID-19, and should avoid contact with colleagues until their test results are available. If they get a negative test result, they can be together with their colleagues as long as their general health status is good.
  • People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 should be in isolation. If they cannot travel home, a separate area must be set aside for this purpose. There should be a separate bathroom / toilet available. Food should be served in the room.  After isolation, the room, toilets and other areas should be cleaned.
  • People identified as close contacts should be in quarantine. If they cannot travel home, a separate area must be set aside for this purpose. People in quarantine should not stay in common living areas with others. They need to be extra alert for any respiratory tract symptoms that may develop.
  • People who are in quarantine after arriving in Norway must have their own room throughout the quarantine period. They cannot go to work or stay in common rooms as long as they are in quarantine. The recommendations for exemptions for entry quarantine and exemptions for work travel, as well as recommended infection control measures and follow-up can be found here.
  • The employer should consider establishing smaller groups / work teams so that the number of employees who have contact with each other is reduced. This applies during working hours, during breaks and outside working hours in common living areas etc.
  • The District Medical Officer is responsible for following up COVID-19 cases and for contact tracing according to current guidelines.

History

30.10.2020: Added sentence in "If someone in the household of an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19"

28.10.2020: Added paragraph with advice for sectors where workers live on site

04.09.2020: Explained what is meant by good general condition.

27.08.2020: Updated bullet points in the section "Sick people should stay at home" under people who can be physically present and people who cannot be physically present at the workplace.

12.08.2020: "Green areas" changed to "yellow areas"

14.07.2020 Added a paragraph about work travel in Nordic and EU/EEA/Schengen areas under "Transport to and from work"

29.05.2020: added link to article on Government's webpage about impending changes to quarantine rules.

22.5.2020: Text revised as per Norwegian version.

08.05.2020
Changed quarantine duration from 14 to 10 days


05.05.2020
Text revised as per Norwegian version, added more advice about working from home. Removed advice to universities.

24.03.2020
Moved section about advice for specific sectors to its own article, as per Norwegian text.

19.03.2020
Added advice for different sectors

17.03.2020
Text updated to reflect Norwegian text

13.03.2020

General update throughout the text to reflect the Norwegian version

12.03.2020 
Added advice about avoiding shaking hands, hugging and kissing

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