Since, Omicron variant of Covid-19 has faded hopes that the pandemic will soon be going away, and employers are once again thinking how they will meet difficult obligations of at workplace. The good news is that, as the virus has evolved, employers' strategies for preventing infections have become more refined. They can contain the threat now and handle future outbreaks if they remain creative, flexible, and adaptive in their approaches — a significant possibility given the low levels of vaccination in many parts of the world.

Here are some broad steps they can take.

Encourage Vaccination

Vaccination remains the most effective method of preventing serious illness, hospitalisation, or death from Covid-19, with those who have been immunised being six times less likely to be infected, 12 times less likely to be hospitalised, and 14 times less likely to die from Covid-19.

Making vaccinations more accessible is critical to increasing their uptake among those who are not highly motivated. Employers should continue to promote vaccination through flexible scheduling and paid time off, and they should think about joining the companies that are already implementing worksite vaccinations.

Consider local transmission rates when making decisions about returning to the office

56 percent of the companies have returned to office working while the remaining are still working. We anticipate that many businesses will postpone returning remote employees to work until more is known about the Omicron variant's transmissibility and severity, as well as its ability to lessen the effect of immunity provided through vaccines and previous infections. The risk of Covid-19 transmission in the workplace is highly correlated with the community infection rate. Businesses are feeling safe while welcoming their remote workers to the office with having a non-infectious community. However, in many communities with weekly infection rates exceeding 50 per 100,000, the likelihood of an employee bringing Covid-19 into the workplace is extremely high. Companies can delay the employee going back or employee numbers from the workplace by providing hybrid work.

Those who are immunocompromised, such as those undergoing cancer treatment, taking immunosuppressive drugs, or who have had organ transplants, should consider working remotely until infection rates have decreased significantly.

Reduce your exposure by socially isolating yourself

Flexible schedules and remote work have aided in the creation of adequate social distance. Furthermore, employers are gradually or staggered returning remote employees to the workplace to increase safety as they adopt new ways of working. Employers can encourage behaviour in workplace and can inculcate social distancing among them. If a conference room has a capacity of two people, make sure there are only two chairs in it!

Increase Ventilation

Building ventilation affects transmission, and increasing the amount of air exchanged indoors lowers the likelihood of infection in the workplace. Many workplaces can add more air exchanges and improve the filtration systems on existing air-handling systems, and some can open windows to improve ventilation. Employers can, however, avoid using ultraviolet lights because there is little evidence that UV treatment of indoor air prevents Covid-19 transmission.

Determine whether masks should be recommended or required

Masks protect against being infected with Covid-19 as well as infecting others. From November survey it was found that 90% of the employers need indoor masks; the majority of around 58% needed masks irrespective of vaccination scenario, and other majority of around 70% reported mask as mandate at all the locations. If community transmission is high or substantial, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing masks when indoors with others, whether vaccinated or not. During any local outbreaks, some healthy vaccinated employees may choose to wear masks indoors. Employers can avoid complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act about masking requirements by following the guidelines of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Encourage People to Test

Eighty-four percent of employers who responded to our survey said they intend to provide regular testing, including some who have not implemented a vaccine mandate and do not intend to do so. Eighty percent of employers who plan to offer testing intend to do so at least weekly. Twenty-five percent of employers expected employees to pay for testing costs where state law permitted.

Antigen tests are the most popular option for Covid-19 surveillance testing because they are inexpensive and provide results in real time; however, obtaining a sufficient supply remains difficult in many parts of the country. Employers can instruct employees to perform the test while being observed to ensure compliance with OSHA guidelines, and they can arrange for follow-up confirmatory tests for those who have no symptoms but are positive. If employees are sick they must not be allowed to work from office.

Be alert while travelling

Earlier in the pandemic, most businesses reduced or eliminated business travel, and many were resuming travel when we discovered the Omicron variant. The variant may raise the risk of travel, and rapidly changing international rules may increase the risk of quarantine or travel disruption.

Leaders should err on the side of caution when allowing employees to travel to areas where the risk of Covid-19 infection is high, and instead request that business meetings be conducted via videoconference. Leaders are likely to keep their travel and expense budgets under control for the foreseeable future, recognising the cost and time savings, as well as the environmental benefits of reduced travel.

Exposures should be communicated

Many workplaces will be affected by Covid-19 in the coming months. Employers should communicate openly about potential exposures in specific facilities while respecting the medical privacy of employees who have reported having Covid-19. Employees who have been vaccinated and have been exposed to Covid-19 should not be quarantined if they are asymptomatic.

Help Mental Health Care

Attending to the mental health needs of employees will become even more important in the coming months. During the pandemic, rates of depression and anxiety have risen, and the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States surpassed 100,000 from April 2020 to April 2021, a record annual level. Many people are bereaved over the deaths of friends and loved ones.

Employers can continue to offer virtual and digital mental health care, but they should keep in mind that scientific evidence of the efficacy of many digital mental health apps is still lacking.

Keep up to date on the efficacy of interventions

Finally, we recommend that businesses stay informed about which interventions are effective in limiting the spread of Covid-19 and which are ineffective. For example, we discovered that most businesses had abandoned temperature screenings, which had proven ineffective in reducing workplace transmission.

We also know that, in most cases, regular cleaning is sufficient to protect against Covid-19 infections, and that disinfection should be reserved for high-touch, high-traffic surfaces and workplaces where there is a known Covid-19 case. Employers can free up more resources for effective pandemic or business initiatives by removing those with a minor impact on safety. Clinical recommendations are also frequently updated. The CDC posts updates to its booster, mask, travel, and quarantine guidelines here.

Covid-19 was a humanitarian disaster that disrupted business plans all over the world. Unfortunately, the pandemic will not be over soon. As a result, employers and employees must continue to be agile. Employers must remain vigilant and implement existing and new processes that have been proven to keep employees, customers, and communities safe while meeting the needs of their organisations, as the local situation dictates.

How does Omicron affect us?

After learning that Omicron cases have been confirmed in India, you may be feeling a little down. You may also be wondering how this new strain affects you and what effects it has on your health. There are many assumptions, such as getting infected by the Omicron strain is more likely for people who have previously been infected by COVID-19, only mild infections have been observed among individuals infected by this strain, and so on.

Only further testing will reveal whether the Omicron strain can cause severe symptoms and effects. Concerns have been raised about the Omicron strain's ability to evade the immune system and cause breakthrough vaccine infections (infection after getting vaccinated). For the time being, the most serious threat posed by this virus is reinfection (till further studies suggest otherwise).

It is too early to make any specific claims about the characteristics or severity of the virus. Don’t get too panic about it.

How is Omicron different from the Delta variant?

The delta variant of COVID-19 was discovered first in India and was responsible for the country's second wave of the pandemic. Current research indicates that the Omicron variant has far more mutations in its spike protein than the delta variant. This variant is thought to be more transmissible than the delta variant, which is cause for concern.

The virus's delta variant is responsible for widespread infection and mortality. The virus's delta variant is lethal, and current reports have yet to confirm the severity of illness caused by the Omicron variant. The Omicron variant is expected to have a much higher rate of reinfection and transmissibility. However, more research and data are required to gain a better understanding of this variant.

The Omicron variant's symptoms

So far, there have been no reports of unusual symptoms in people infected with the omicron variant of COVID-19. As a result, the current scenario suggests that the symptoms of the Omicron variant may be similar to those observed in earlier strains of the virus. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, weakness, and loss of smell, shortness of breath, chest pain and loss of taste, sore throat, cough, stomach ache, and diarrhoea. We have yet to receive conclusive data on the severity and symptoms of the new COVID variant- Omicron.

Which tests can detect the Omicron strain?

The SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR diagnostic test can detect the virus's new strain. Other tests are being studied to determine their effectiveness in detecting the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. Samples from suspected people who tested positive for the Variant type using the RT-PCR test are sent for genome sequencing to confirm the Variant type.

What can you do to stay safe as the Omicron strain spreads?

Currently, the best way to stay safe is to adhere to all WHO and government-mandated safety protocols –

1. Get vaccinated if you haven't already. 2. Maintain physical distance.

3. Travel outside as little as possible and avoid crowds at all costs.

4. When going out or meeting an outsider, wear a mask.

5. Maintain proper hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene.

6. Do not disregard any signs of illness (fever, weakness, sore throat) and consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Surveillance for the new strain has been increased in all countries, including India, to track its spread. Many countries have begun to impose travel restrictions, and you should avoid travelling to countries where the Omicron strain is rapidly spreading. Cancel travel plans (if not absolutely necessary) because safety is of the utmost importance. If you or a loved one is planning to travel, read the travel guidelines and make sure they are followed correctly to avoid any problems while on the road.

Conclusion 

The Omicron variant is rapidly spreading, but on a positive note, assumptions indicate that the virus is less lethal than the delta variant. People who have been infected with COVID-19 or who have other comorbidities should be extra cautious because the rate of reinfection in this new variant is thought to be high. You can reduce your risk of infection from the new variant by following all safety protocols and maintaining good hygiene. Assume responsibility for limiting the virus's spread and encouraging your peers to follow safety protocols.