COVID-19: The importance of preventive strategies in the workplace

As employers prepare for their employees to return to the worksite, it’s critical to focus on overall prevention and wellness as well as COVID-19 prevention measures. By following a long-term preventive strategy, employers can help their employees support their overall health and well-being. These strategies will not only help contain COVID-19, they will also help us in flu season and with other infectious diseases.

Help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
Placing communications throughout the worksite can help employees keep preventive measures at top of mind and thereby help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Consider posting the following tips throughout the workplace to help keep your employees healthy and safe1:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • Wear a face mask that adequately covers your nose and mouth
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Cover up coughs and sneezes
  • Wipe down surfaces regularly
  • Maintain a social distance from others
  • Monitor symptoms and follow up as appropriate

Implement Return to Workplace strategy related to COVID-19
Return to Workplace (RTW) or return to the office is on the forefront on many employers’ minds right now. For employers that have employees currently at the worksite, they continue to refine their approaches. For employers planning a phased return, they are looking for guidance. The key goal is to provide both a physically and psychologically protected workplace to which employees can return.

One way to think about the return process is more of a transition and ongoing sustainable approach rather than a point-in-time activity. That said, a comprehensive, sustainable approach involves preparation, symptom checking, support and care.2 Optum has aligned a number of services and resources that fall within these four areas under the categories of proactive, screening and supportive.

Connecting to the greater good
Reminding employees that these preventive behaviors are important and that everyone is in this together can help motivate them to take care of themselves and others. Employees may be more inclined to perform these tasks when they see their peers, social groups and leaders doing it as well. Likewise, knowing these protective measures help others may help motivate employees to tap into that sense of greater good by exercising caution.

One study3 found that health care workers are more likely to wash their hands and wear masks to protect their patients than to protect their own health. They also did a better job of performing these actions when posted signs reminded them to do it.

Compassion, patience and positive feedback from employers will go a long way in ensuring success as employees return to the workplace with these preventive measures in mind.

Visit the Optum COVID-19 site to learn more about the tools available to you and your employees.


About the Author

SerxnerSeth - Full shotSeth Serxner, PhD, MPH
Chief Health Officer, Optum

Seth Serxner, a national expert on behavior change, program design and measurement, brings the breadth of his experience in academia, industry and consulting to his role as chief health officer at Optum.

His versatile skill set ensures processes and outcomes that improve health for clients in all markets. His deep knowledge of behavior change, population health and measurement allows him to visualize and deliver on program innovation.

He is a published author with over 25 years of experience in health and productivity management. He holds a master’s in public health and a doctorate from the University of California, where his research focused on health promotion and disease prevention in social ecology.



1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to protect yourself and others. Last reviewed April 24, 2020. Accessed June 22, 2020.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Resuming Business Toolkit. Last reviewed May 21, 2020. Accessed June 23, 2020.
3 Grant A, Hofmann D. It’s not all about me: Motivating hand hygiene among health care professionals by focusing on patients. Psychological Science. 2011;22(12):1494–1499.



2 thoughts on “COVID-19: The importance of preventive strategies in the workplace

  1. Hi Seth,

    That was a very insightful read.
    This COVID times are really testing the healthcare industry like never before and seen positively, these trying moments will only bring out the best in our industry. I can visualize a more resilient, resourceful and risk ready healthcare industry post COVID and the best thing is I can feel UHG leading the way in this new normal. Thanks again for the blog.

  2. You conveyed a very good message that how can we make strategies in such a pandemic situation for the betterment of our life. As Acharya Manish used to say that prevention is better than cure.

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