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How we try to keep our people safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed how we are working in our warehouse. We tried many things to adapt to the new situation, some of which failed, some of which worked. In this post, we want to share everything we did and the things that seem to work for us. 

As a bit of context: we have a site in Wijchen with around 140 employees. We do a number of activities here: grading of returned items, preparing these for the next buyer, as well as fulfillment for our eCommerce customers. We provide next-day delivery, so any disruption in our ability to fulfill orders has an immediate impact on our revenue as well as our reputation. We also grew quite significantly during the last year, which meant we had to scale up our operations and train many new colleagues. 

The points written below are the result of trial-and-error and exchanging a lot of tips & tricks with other companies. It comes with a big fat disclaimer: we haven’t figured everything out yet and what works for us, might not work for everyone else. Nevertheless, we hope you take the best things from our learnings and hope you will share your insights with us as well so we can continue to improve as well. 

The things we did can be grouped in (1) Safety practices and (2) Morale boosters.

Safety practices

First, the obvious things:

  • Employees are required to wear a facemask when moving around in the facility, as well as when it’s impossible to maintain 1.5 meters distance from each other (e.g. carrying a large item). We use standard medical masks and provide them for free at the entrance.
  • Outside visitors and office personnel are not welcome unless strictly necessary. All visitors must register.
  • We continually clean all surfaces that are frequently touched: roll containers, handrails, break rooms, toilets, door handles. We also air the break rooms regularly (yes, also when it gets a bit colder).
  • We placed disinfectant at key points in the facility and at every workstation, and have instruction posters everywhere.
  • We split the shifts and break times by 15 minutes, so we minimize the number of people going on breaks at the same time.

Furthermore:

  • We have purchased air cleaners/humidifiers which are used in the break rooms and in the office.
  • We have plexiglass separation screens between the workstations. Employees are required to clean their workstations and tools by the end of the day.
  • We created a clear protocol for COVID-19 cases. Naturally, when someone is displaying any symptoms, we ask them to go or stay home. We decided to continue paying flex workers in this case, as we do not want to create an incentive for people to come to work while sick. In case someone is tested positive, we do internal contact research to make sure he or she has not potentially infected anyone else at work. For a few months, we also worked with a commercial testing facility to make sure people could get tested as soon as possible.
  • The thing we struggled with most in our warehouse: keeping the government mandated 1.5 meters distance from each other. Naturally, we implemented this right away, including signage on the floors. However, we noticed that many people struggled to keep this rule due to the nature of our work. Especially in training situations, we noticed it was very tempting for people to step into each other’s zone. The best solution turned out to be to assign a “Corona officer” whose only task is to make sure people abide by the rules. Not the most fun job, but this definitely helps.
  • What didn’t work: We tried plastic gloves for all employees, but this led to some pretty hilarious scenes in combination with packing tape and stickers. Thicker gloves are not feasible with the type of work we need to do. Currently, we only require a few people to wear gloves.

Morale boosters

We ask a lot from our employees with all these measures. At the same time, some of them feel vulnerable, as they do not have the luxury of working from home. Therefore, it is extra important to keep up the team spirit, so we’ve also done a number of things to boost morale.

  • Providing free meals every two weeks, either with lunch packages, healthy soups, or a food truck outside.
  • Providing fresh fruit in the break room twice a week (which comes from local growers and is transported by electric cars).
  • Surprising the team with gift packages. Recently, our employees received a movie box (with healthy snacks) for an entertaining home cinema evening.

We review these measures every week, but so far they seem to be working well for us. We have had 3 cases of positive tests so far, all of which originated outside of our warehouse. None of these people have infected co-workers.

Movie pakket

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