Coping with Covid-19: How FRANCE 24 has adapted to the new normal
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France has issued new guidelines for workplace safety amid Covid-19, seeking to strike a balance between protecting workers and avoiding another crippling lockdown. Like other companies around the world, FRANCE 24 has changed the way it operates since the start of the pandemic to ensure staff remain safe while continuing to provide round-the-clock news coverage to its international audience.
Mandatory face masks, temperature checks and hand sanitizer dispensers every few metres — this is the new normal at France Médias Monde (FMM), FRANCE 24’s parent company.
Each day, FMM distributes around 1,800 face masks to on-site staff, and anyone with a temperature over 37 degrees Celsius is not allowed in the building.
Management has also had to rethink the office space, with arrows on staircases and some corridors to limit people crossing paths. Where social distancing is not possible, plexiglass barriers have been installed between desks.
“It's hard sometimes to communicate to colleagues,” says FRANCE 24 journalist Yinka Oyetade. “But hey, I want to feel safe and they make me feel safe.”
Behind the scenes, Franck Penaud, head of general services at FMM, has been coordinating the company's coronavirus response.
“I'm not going to toot my own horn but we have often been ahead of national guidelines,” he says. “We've had masks since April, we haven't run out. We had to import masks, hand sanitizer and wipes at a time when there were shortages on the national and international markets (...) And we’ve had to find our own supply chains. I admit that some nights were tough."
'There's never zero risk'
“I’ve got a wipe and I clean my work station before I start,” says François Bernard, a presenter on FRANCE 24’s sister radio station, RFI (Radio France Internationale).
FMM has added over a dozen people to the cleaning staff, essential employees who help keep the workplace running.
“There's never zero risk. But I am so happy to say that I'm part of those who are saving lives,” says Mmadi Saindou. “We are taking risks to protect people.”
Everyone is expected to make an extra effort to clean up before and after work, as shared equipment increases the risk of contamination. That is the case for both radio and TV studios at FMM.
Since the start of September, more shows have been put back on air, though programming is still not fully back to pre-pandemic times. Staff who can work from home continue to do so on most days, while those who need access to technical equipment are back on site.
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