It’s crazy to think that, once upon a time, we congregated around the coffee machine to discuss what antics happened over the weekend. Covid-19 has completely transformed our outlook on cleanliness, work and life.
As if three lockdowns weren’t unsettling enough, actually going back to work can be just as nerve-wracking. Coupled with the news of vaccine developments; it’s a lot to take in.
“It’s important to know that whilst vaccine administration is underway, businesses still need to make sure their workplace is ready for staff to return, whenever that may be” says Carlos Garcia, Managing Director at Total Clean. “The safety of the workforce during – and beyond – this pandemic should be at the forefront of any business owner’s mind.”
If you’re a business owner, you should be thinking about a recommissioning plan, including having a system in place for recording which areas have been cleaned and at which times (when we say system, a checklist should do the trick), as well as contractors if you have systems that need servicing or you require emergency decontamination in the case of someone becoming ill with Coronavirus.
With that said, here is a guide to help your business make a safe transition into the workplace.
Looking After Employees
We’ve all had wildly different lockdown experiences and your employees’ mental wellbeing is paramount to their productivity, which affects your business.
Here are some things you ought to consider:
- Checking in with your staff regularly, as well as whenever they need it. Perhaps introduce regular meetings to monitor how people are adjusting to the transition and to get feedback.
- Keeping your employees informed about any changes to office conduct ahead of their return and keeping a clear line of communication open.
- Being open to flexible working conditions. If you’ve been working remotely for some time and you’ve found that it works, there is no reason why working from home beyond the pandemic shouldn’t be an option.
- Bearing in mind that some employees might now be on less pay than others and this could be a problem for people getting to work who rely on public transport.
- Staff who have children may need to be at home more due to childcare not being plausible.
- People who have existing health conditions and are extra vulnerable to the virus (likewise, people who live with others who are highly at risk).
- Staggered attendance to control the amount of people entering the office and avoid another spike in cases, as well as to make staff feel as safe as possible.
- Implementing a reservation system for workspace.
Things like shift patterns and working bubbles will help to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19 and alleviate pressure on the NHS. It’s also less of a hindrance if someone tests positive as it won’t force an entire team to isolate for two weeks.
Levelling up on Cleaning Procedures
As well as working closely with any contracted cleaners, you generally need to be more thorough and extra attentive to touch points such as lift buttons, phones, kitchen appliances and so on, and carry out a deep clean perhaps more regularly than you normally would.
Make sure you’re always stocked up on hand sanitizer (with an alcohol volume of 70% or more) as well as other cleaning supplies.
Desks and most objects (pen holders, plant pots, photo frames) can be cleaned with either disinfectant wipes or lukewarm soapy water (hopefully we don’t need to tell you that water and electronics are not friends – unplug everything first). Wipe down your desk with a dry cloth to get rid of dust. For computer and laptop screens, we’d recommend using a microfiber cloth. Don’t spray any cleaning liquids directly onto the screen.
Keyboard crumbs are the worst (after bed crumbs). Hold the keyboard upside down, shake and tap ever so slightly over a bin to get rid of any bits.
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems
Contamination of Covid-19 occurs mainly indoors, where it’s easier for airborne particles to spread, meaning busy offices are a high risk area.
Because the virus is airborne, you should be paying extra attention to all heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems on your premises, making sure they’ve been cleaned and serviced properly prior to reopening.
Shelly Miller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Colorado Boulder, also emphasises that the best way to keep indoor spaces safe is to keep windows and doors open at all times so that fresh air is constantly circulating and use box/extractor fans where possible.
In buildings that don’t have operable windows it is advisable to change the ventilation system to increase how much air is being pumped. You can also use CO2 to measure air circulation. A well ventilated room should have around 800 ppm of CO2. Anything higher than that is a sign that more ventilation is needed.
As buildings have been unoccupied for quite some time, it is possible that faults with fire alarms and smoke detectors could have arisen. Due to prolonged periods of inactivity, it is more likely that any faults will have gone undetected.
Whilst you still have time before reopening, you’ll want to test these systems are still functional.
Fire safety systems are different to security systems in that they aren’t activated and deactivated on a regular basis so you wouldn’t immediately know if there was an issue, according to BAFE Fire Safety Register.
If water outlets haven’t been used for a long period of time, you could see problems such as stagnation or poor temperature control. Stagnation in particular can cause waterborne bacteria such as Legionella to fester.
It’s important to take into consideration the safety of any maintenance engineers or operatives that might enter the premises in these cases. Some simple ways to prepare for the reopening of buildings are: limiting aerosol use, minimising exposure (flushing and leaving the area) and providing respiratory protection equipment (RPE).
Social distancing isn’t going anywhere for a while, so to make it as simple to adhere to as possible, these are a few things you can do:
- Use floor stickers.
- Implement one-way systems in narrow corridors.
- Use ‘stop’ and ‘go’ signs that people can flip accordingly when entering and leaving small spaces like cupboards, toilets and break rooms.
- Remove furniture where possible and use staggered seating arrangements to create more space and prevent crowding.