Right now in the UK, wearing a face covering has been mandatory on public transport since May, and in shops, supermarkets, pubs, restaurants, and other public areas since July. Recently, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that the government is considering making masks compulsory in the office in an additional step to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Ministers in Scotland have already met to discuss whether or not the mask-wearing rules for public settings should also be extended to the office, and many workplaces in England are voluntarily asking their employees to wear some kind of facial protection while at work.
Are Masks in the Office Beneficial?
Face coverings work by providing a protective barrier against potentially harmful droplets from the mouth, nose, and throat that are one of the key ways COVID-19 is spread. Miniscule droplets that are released into their air when you speak, cough, sneeze, sing or shout can land on surfaces around you or even on other people if you are closer than one metre apart, hence the new social distancing rules that have been put in place.
According to science, wearing a face-covering or shield is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Three separate studies conducted in the UK, USA, and Germany found that people who wore a face covering while in public places were less likely to contract COVID-19 compared to those who did not.
Current Rules for Offices
Currently, office workers are being asked to continue working from home as much as possible in order to improve safety and decrease the number of people who are together in the office at any one time. Those people who have no choice but to go into the office for work have been asked to social distance, either by means of staying two metres apart or through putting extra protective measures like plastic barriers in place. But social distancing is more effective with a face covering.
In August, a study by the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh found that somebody who stands two metres apart from a coughing person who is not wearing a mask is exposed to 10,000 times more droplets compared to somebody standing just one metre away from somebody who is coughing but also wearing a mask.
Could Mask Wearing Lead to Immunity?
Along with reducing your risk and the risk of others around you, wearing a mask could also be improving your chance of becoming immune to the virus. Face coverings are effective at catching the larger sized droplets, while smaller droplets known as aerosols are more likely to pass through the mask and can stay airborne for quite some time.
A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in September suggested that wearing a mask could actually provide the wearer with immunity. This is because most COVID-19 particles are blocked by the face-covering, and with only a small number managing to reach somebody else, the person is far less likely to be seriously ill with COVID-19 or develop long-term health problems. In the Lancet, further research suggested that this may be because mask wearing is leading to people dealing with a lower ‘viral load’, which is more likely to result in much milder or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.
Should You Wear a Mask in the Office?
Depending on where you work, you may or may not have already been asked to wear some kind of face covering while in the office. While there are currently no laws concerning facemask-wearing in offices, many employers are asking employees to do so wherever they can, along with newly implemented social distancing rules. If your employer has not asked employees to wear a face-covering to work, it’s entirely up to you whether or not you wish to do so. You may not need to wear a face-covering if you are exempt because of an underlying respiratory health condition or other illness that makes it difficult or risky for you to cover your face. If you are exempt from wearing a mask, it’s worth considering the option to work from home for as long as you can, where this is possible.
Choosing a Face Mask for the Office
Whether your employer has asked you to wear one, you’ve decided to wear a face covering as a personal choice, or you simply want to prepare for the chance that face coverings might become mandatory in offices soon, there are a few key factors to keep in mind when it comes to covering your face in the office. You will want to choose a mask that not only looks professional but also is easy and comfortable to wear for the entire day.
The Virustatic Shield™ is an ideal choice as the best mask for long-term wear. The mask from VIRACTIV is a comfortable, breathable option that is coated in Viruferrin, leaving it able to block, capture and disable up to 99% of virus particles including COVID-19. This makes the VIRACTIV mask one of the best choices for the office. The VIRACTIV shield mask and snood is also completely washable and reusable, making it an ideal choice for somebody who wants the best mask, one they can use regularly without the added cost of purchasing new face coverings. You can check out the mask and snood for sale at viractiv.com.
Wearing a Mask Safely
To get the most protection from your face covering, there are few general rules to stick to, whether you’re wearing it to the office or in public places like shops and supermarkets. First of all, your mask should be exclusively your own and you should never share it with anybody else; even a member of your household. Choosing a comfortable mask is key since wearing one that irritates you could actually have the opposite effect to the desired one by causing you to touch your face more often, which could increase your risk of contracting the coronavirus. Finally, if you are using a reusable mask, it should be thoroughly washed between each use. Disposable masks should be suitably disposed of after every use.
Other Ways to Stay Safe as You Return to the Office
After months of working from home, many people are returning to the office and some version of ‘normal’. But things are far from completely safe and are unlikely to be until a vaccine or a more effective treatment for the virus is found. With a second UK wave on the horizon for winter, it’s very likely that office workers will once again be told to return to their home set-up. But if you are working from the office, keeping your distance from others – whether or not you’re using a mask – should be a top priority. Cleaning is also something that should be done more frequently to protect against the spread of COVID-19 in offices. Keep a bottle of hand sanitiser on you at all times to use regularly throughout the day and wash your hands often. Areas of the office that are regularly touched by different people like light switches and door handles should be disinfected often.
While face coverings are mandatory in public places, most office workers currently have the choice of whether or not to wear one. But with research in favour of masks stacking up, it may not be long before these rules extend to the workplace.