Work bubbles can help companies open up, while limiting the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak

Creating “working bubbles” during a COVID-19 pandemic can help reduce the risk of an outbreak throughout the company, while helping core businesses continue to operate, as Bombardier Aviation shows in an analysis published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The need for key businesses to open up during a pandemic has resulted in large outbreaks in factories and other places where employees work in the immediate vicinity, jeopardizing employee and community safety as well as disrupting supply chains.

“Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for their employees,” says lead author Dr. Jeffrey Shaw, a critical care physician and associate at the University of Calgary School of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta. “Creating enterprise cohorts or work bubbles can reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak throughout the company that could affect the wider community.”

An example of Bombardier aviation

The authors describe how Bombardier Aviation, a large Canadian company that employs 22,000 people in 7 factories in 4 provinces / states in Canada and the United States, has adapted to the pandemic. Most office staff worked from home, ensuring that only employees who built or supported aircraft deliveries were on site. Core employees were organized into cohorts that communicated with each other only to reduce contact with other staff.

The cohorts are organized on the principles that bubbles should work

Include the minimum number of people needed to do the job. Design to allow business to continue if another work bubble is removed from the workforce. Strictly separate from other bubbles in time and / or space to prevent virus transmission between groups.

Scheduling rotating working days and disinfecting common areas after use with a working bubble can ensure physical separation of employees. Daily detection of symptoms and rapid isolation of infected employees are also key to controlling and preventing an outbreak of the epidemic.

“Adapting our operational activities to the pandemic was challenging, but we are extremely proud of how proactive and efficient our teams have been in adapting to their new working conditions. Maintaining the safety of our employees is our number one priority,” says co-author Nancy Barber, director of technical affairs. . Industrialization, footprints and central planning, Bombardier aviation.

Despite some challenges, working bubbles also offer benefits

Reducing the number of reproductions of the disease Increasing the effectiveness of contact search Protecting employees from infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) at work Increasing employee confidence in workplace safety Enabling business continuity in case of positive cases

“As we begin to relax the public health measures brought in to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, we need to figure out how to limit the risk of infection at work,” says Dr. Shaw. “Using a bubble strategy can help companies continue to function and ensure employee safety.”

Listen to a podcast with co-authors Dr. Jeffrey Shaw and Hayley Wickenheiser on discussions of working bladders and their practical application in factories, schools, and sports.


“Working in a bubble: How can companies reopen while limiting the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks?” was published on September 30, 2020.

The article was written by authors from the University of Calgary, Alberta; Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario; Bombardier Aviation, Montreal, Quebec; University of Toronto and University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario; and Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of the announcements published on EurekAlert! by contributing to institutions or using any information through the EurekAlert system.

Back to top button