Firms want to avoid second lockdown How companies in Bonn are protecting their workers

Bonn · Eye lasers for measuring fever, Plexiglass screens, using the Corona-Warn-App: Bonn companies are reacting to the increasing number of corona infections with new as well as tried and tested measures. We made enquiries.

 For many companies, the option of working from home is the preferred reaction to the increasing corona infection rates.

For many companies, the option of working from home is the preferred reaction to the increasing corona infection rates.

Foto: dpa/Sebastian Gollnow

For a short time during the summer there seemed to be some normality again, at least the working day with the new corona rules felt a bit more like normality. Timotheus Höttges, head of Deutsche Telekom, reported in May that employees would gradually be returning from working at home to their offices. By the end of October, the corona rules are no longer being relaxed. "We will equip our offices with Plexiglass partition screens," reports the Bonn IT System House Bechtle, which is represented in the region with 450 employees.

Bechtle, Telekom, Deutsche Post, Haribo, BWI and Postbank – in recent weeks, since the COVID-19 infection figures have been rising again, crisis teams at these companies have all reassessed the situation and adapted, i.e. tightened up, their corona measures. At Deutsche Telekom, the decision-making unit is called the “Group Situation Center”, after all, there are 210,000 employees worldwide who need to be protected.

Preventation team at Haribo

At Haribo in Grafschaft, this is the responsibility of an "interdisciplinary prevention team" that was established at the end of February. And at Post DHL it is a group-wide "task force" which, according to the company, "continuously monitors all pandemic developments".

There is major fear of a new lockdown amongst businesses. For this reason, many companies are looking very closely at how work processes can be designed to respect the corona rules of distancing, hygiene and mask wearing (in German the so-called AHA rules referring to Abstand halten, Hygiene beachten, Alltagsmaske).

Bechtle has added "A+L", where A stands for "Corona-Warn-App" and L for "regelmäßiges Lüften” (regular ventilation). While Bechtle has specifically made use of the Corona Warning App a rule, at Deutsche Post it is only a recommendation.

As an IT system house that is conducting research on its site in Sankt Augustin into a completely networked workstation of the future, Bechtle is also relying on the latest technology in the fight against the pandemic: a fever measuring device checks the body temperature of every employee at the entrance using a contactless eye laser.

Like airport check-in

"We don't want to quickly go into a new lockdown, but rather we need to organise ourselves differently," says Telekom spokesman Husam Azrak. At the Bonn site, only a maximum of 30 percent of employees are currently in the offices at any one time. "It's like checking in at the airport," explains Azrak. There are no longer any fixed workstations at Telekom anyway, everyone books their desk. This makes it easier to trace contacts in the event of an infection, because we can check the time of the day when staff were present. And the workplaces are never overcrowded.

High level of discipline and personal responsibility

"So far, however, no case has been reported where anyone in the office has been infected," Azrak emphasises. "The level of acceptance, discipline and personal responsibility is very high," the spokesperson adds.

At BWI GmbH, the IT service provider to the German Armed Forces, all face-to-face events such as seminars and training courses have been prohibited again since 12th October. For business trips - there are 40 sites in Germany - only urgent operations are permitted. Otherwise, so-called “Home Office” is the order of the day; during the first lockdown, 80 percent of the employees worked from home.

Since then, there have been "rolling teams" which take turns to work in the offices so that not so many employees would have to be quarantined in the event of a corona infection. Overall, “the BWI is monitoring the corona situation and current developments on a daily basis and evaluates them in coordination with the Bundeswehr.”

Working from home not possible for most Haribo employees

Around 70 per cent of the employees at the sweets manufacturer Haribo work in production, so working from home is out of the question for them. Shift work has been changed in all factories worldwide so that workers on different shifts do not encounter each other in the corridors or changing rooms. All administrative staff should work from home if they come from risk areas. Business trips and presence meetings are "forbidden" for them, the company says.

"Split teams", which work on a rolling basis, are also in place at Postbank. While at the Postbank headquarters in Bonn and in the so-called back-office units, which have no contact with customers, a maximum of 50 percent of employees are in the office, in the branches employees and customers are protected through hand hygiene, distancing and the use of Plexiglass screens.

"In this way, we aim to ensure that the provision of postal and banking services to the population can be maintained even as the number of incidences increase. This has been successful so far", a spokesperson said. However, employees who would rather work from home due to the pandemic are able to do so.

Mandatory face coverings

All the companies we contacted have made it compulsory to wear face coverings in corridors, lifts and the canteen; the masks may only be removed when at individual workstations/desks. As is the regulation for all retailers, employees in the Telekom shops and sales representatives in the field must also wear a face covering.

Due to the rising number of infections, the Post is again asking all employees in Bonn to move to working from home if possible. The canteen remains open, but only offers takeaway food.

Virtual coffee meetings

As a lesson learned from the crisis, the BWI is now developing a new workplace model where flexibility of time and place is a priority. Because it is known that working remotely from home can lead to feelings of isolation, the company is looking for fixed formats for maintaining personal contact. One idea is a virtual coffee meeting known as Coffee Talk.

(Original text: Ulla Thiede and Frank Rintelmann, Translation: Caroline Kusch)

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