Infectious Disease Specialist: "This is a rare opportunity"

Dr. Sharkawy is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and an infectious diseases consultant at the University Health Network

Infectious Disease Specialist: "This is a rare opportunity"

It’s no secret that 2020 has already been a year full of changes and challenges. Most of us never thought we’d live to see a modern-day pandemic, yet here we are.

One individual who is no stranger to highly contagious diseases and epidemics is Dr. Abdu Sharkawy. He’s been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, treating hundreds of cases over the past few months.

Dr. Sharkawy is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and an infectious diseases consultant at the University Health Network. He also routinely appears on multiple media outlets, including serving as the principal infectious diseases resource lead for CTV News in Canada.

Recently, Dr. Sharkawy joined Ultimate Software in a webinar for human resources professionals in Canada: “From the Front Lines: Best Practices for Returning to Work Safely, from an Infectious Disease Specialist.”

Speaking in the webinar, Dr. Sharkawy explained why it’s essential we approach COVID-19 as an opportunity – a way to reimagine and improve our current social climate.

“The one thing we’ve learned from this pandemic is just how interdependent different parts of our society’s fabric are.

“There’s no aspect of our human experience that hasn’t been touched by this pandemic – it’s political unrest, economic despair, industrial infrastructure challenges, health economics, or resource disparity. This is an opportunity to critically examine what we are doing and why we end up in these situations.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with one another and develop different strategies for the future – to fortify our ability not only to withstand pandemics, but to ensure a better quality of life for ourselves and our families.

“We should capture this moment and exploit it as much as we can while we have everyone’s eyes and ears tuned toward not just surviving but thriving.”

The idea that employers should be using this crisis as a rare opportunity to revamp their current strategies is an alluring one. A recent report from global HR law firm Lewis Silkin found that 52% of companies have already completed multiple employee surveys in order to gauge workers’ opinions and sentiments.

In terms of actively returning to the workplace, it appears opinion is still somewhat divided. Some employees are overwhelmingly anxious to get back into the office, while many others are still worried about the potential health risks of working in close quarters indoors. 

According to Dr. Sharkawy, the answer lies in proper planning.

“Right now, we’re doing a lot virtually; we’re doing more and more online. I think it’s important to perpetuate that as a strategy moving forward and to encourage, as much as possible, people to work online or from a remote setting rather than congregating indoors. The benefits of this are intuitive from a resource point of view and it also makes a lot of sense from an infection standpoint.

“The idea of shift work should be re-examined here. Maybe we should consider staggering shifts so that we don’t have too many people in an office at the same time. Should we also look at a four-day work week becoming the norm? After all, the benefits of these flexible options are great in terms of employee satisfaction and productivity, as well as helping to minimize the spread of the virus.”

Can you get COVID-19 and the seasonal flu at the same time?

Hear what this infectious disease specialist thinks about handwashing, taking employees’ temperatures, ventilation systems, the seasonal flu, and much more.

Watch Dr. Sharkawy’s full presentation with Ultimate Software here.

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