Date: 14/05/2020

The new normal: how to work safely in times of the coronavirus pandemic

Serbian Government’s Covid-19 Crisis Response Committee members join online panel discussion on how to ensure working arrangements comply with health recommendations

According to a survey conducted by AmCham in the second week of May, after Serbia declared a state of emergency over two-thirds of all companies allowed more than 80 percent of their staff to work from home. The remaining firms are mainly manufacturers and strategic service providers. As the state of emergency has now formally been lifted, and with people gradually returning to their offices, a key consideration for businesses is making sure workplaces are safe and practising the required precautions.

AmCham invited epidemiologist Dr Predrag Kon and immunologist Dr Srđa Janković, both members of the Serbian Government’s Covid-19 Crisis Response Committee, to share their views of when it will be considered safe for employees to return to their places of work, as well as which practices and measures should be adopted to safeguard health and safety. The two doctors were joined by officers of firms employing large numbers of staff, Stefan Lazarević, CEO of NCR, and Darko Popović, board member at Banca Intesa.

According to the medical experts, the key indicator that the outbreak was being brought under control was the decreasing proportion of new infections relative to the number of people tested. The downward trend in this figure seen over the past several weeks was a signal for businesses to re-open gradually and allow staff to return to their offices, they added. The participants concluded that it was essential for the Crisis Response Committee to keep sharing timely information about this indicator.

The panel agreed that the pace at which workers will return to their offices will vary depending on each business, but that all firms should implement a staged re-opening whilst watching the health indicators. If the outbreak is declared over, the stages will certainly be accelerated, and vice versa, if infection rates begin to rise once again, some staff should be sent back home.
The importance of workplace safety measures was also emphasised. These include re-arranging offices to permit the appropriate social distance to be maintained, keeping premises disinfected and ventilated, clearly marking movement routes inside office spaces, and ensuring people can come in to work safely.

The event was co-moderated by Sandra Marinković, member of AmCham’s Board of Governors and Chair of AmCham’s Healthcare Committee, and Amalija Pavić, AmCham Deputy Executive Director.