COVID-19 Cleaning: How To Return To The Office Safely
While many office workers have switched to working remotely in the wake of COVID-19, some employees and companies may work with proprietary tools or volatile chemicals that require employees to be on-site to ensure the job’s done right. And as restrictions lessen and more documentation is available about how COVID-19 spreads, large numbers of office settings will reopen in the coming months. When opening offices back up, employers and building managers should implement thorough cleaning and disinfection methods to make sure everyone’s safe.
Employers should also consider their employees’ comfort, who may be in understandably heightened states of concern. There are also physical changes which workplaces should implement if they plan to welcome staff back into their premises. This includes updated approaches to hygiene and cleaning, as well as some structural “redesigning.” We hope the tips below will help improve office safety and bring more peace of mind to everyone working as we navigate this crucial public health issue.
COVID-19 Social Distancing Measures At The Office
For businesses that require on-site employees, social distancing in the office should be required from the start, and not only when offices fully reopen. Starting social distancing early will give time to test which methods work best for your office before everyone transitions back.
- Conduct a comprehensive safety management assessment of the workplace to identify potential workplace dangers that could increase risks for contracting COVID-19.
- Look for common areas where employees may have close proximity with others — for example, meeting areas, break rooms, locker rooms, kitchens, waiting rooms, and common paths of entry and exit.
- Make sure all employees are kept in the loop about best practices, and not just those most-visible in the office. This could include management, utility employees, relief staff, janitorial workers, and maintenance.
- If contractors work at the office, make sure to communicate with their main company about changes to work procedures and requirements. Such can help mitigate or even prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
COVID-19 Office Cleaning & Adjustments
If your company is reopening, there are several effective steps you should take to ensure your office is implementing the best COVID-19 guidelines. Below are some useful ways to keep your employees and customers safe while staying productive.
If possible, your company should standardize separate entrances and exits to keep walking paths consistent. This will reduce overcrowding of doorways and thruways while ensuring social distancing. While not crucial, it will help reduce the spread of contaminants and keep the building cleaner.
Dedicated Hand Sanitizers
Implement sanitizer locations at key areas in your building, such as the entrance and near “high touch” spots (i.e. next to bathrooms and printers). Offer individual hand sanitizers at each location to make hand hygiene as effective as possible.
Different Arrival Times
To improve the social distancing at your office, employees can arrive at staggered times to decrease how many people are and aren’t. This will also help incentivize people to use entrances, rest rooms, and other areas at separate times.
Screens and barriers
For employees with customer facing roles, or for those who frequently interact with coworkers (such as receptionists), setting up appropriate screens and barriers that keep them socially distant and safe while still allowing them to do good work.
Cleaning touch points
Create a dedicated cleaning schedule for frequent contact areas, such as door handles, photocopiers, sinks, and other bathroom surfaces. These high-touch areas should be cleaned more than once per day.
Create Unique Considerations for Elevators and Escalators
- Encourage employees and customers to take stairs when possible, especially when elevator waiting areas are congested or if only going up or down a few flights at a time.
- Where possible, organize certain stairwells or sides of staircases as distinct “up” and “down” paths to better promote social distancing. Electrical or painters tape put down the middle of a large single staircase can help people remember which sides are which.
- Put floor markings in elevator waiting areas and near escalators to incentivize social distancing. Put decals on the inside of the elevator to show passengers where they should stand, if necessary.
- Encourage the use of cloth face coverings by all elevator and escalator occupants. Ask elevator occupants to avoid speaking, when possible.
- Consider limiting the number of people in an elevator and leaving steps empty between passengers on escalators, where possible, to maintain social distancing.
- Post reminders in high-traffic areas for occupants to minimize surface touching. Encourage them to use an object (such as a pen or pencil) or their knuckle to push on elevator buttons.
- Encourage people using elevators and escalators to wash their hands and avoid touching their face after making contact with handrails and buttons.
Foster Effective Workplace Hygiene
Since social distancing has proven to be an effective way to reduce transmitting illnesses, getting every employee on board with bettering office hygiene probably won’t be met with much hesitation. But there are several ways you can encourage every employee to keep up healthy behaviors once things begin to settle back into our new normal:
- Make sure to increase how many disinfecting wipes are available and any virus-killing hand sanitizers. Be sure everyone knows how to use them appropriately. Encourage every employee in the office to commit to regularly disinfecting and cleaning high-touch surfaces.
- Ongoingly improve professional cleaning and disinfecting methods for COVID-19 within the company to reduce the incidence of germs and bacteria at work.
- When possible, implement touch-reducing tools at work, including double-swinging push doors, lights with motion activation, and other hands-free amenities that decrease germs in congregated areas.
- If your employees share desks and have a more open office floor plan, it might be helpful to require everyone to clean equipment and surfaces when they leave or move to a different spot. In fact, this has been the effective strategy for most gyms that have reopened in the United States.
Creating a plan and covering all the necessary areas is a great first step in fostering a more hygienic, cleaner office at work. Part of the goal is always to maintain levels of enthusiasm at work, and when employees know their work environments are safe, they feel more ready to do their best work. Make healthy environments a central focus of your company’s culture within the office, and you’ll continue to gain employee trust while growing your business due to paying attention to what’s most important: everyone’s health and wellbeing.