Thanks to the increase in Covid-19 vaccination rates, many companies are now planning to go back to office buildings that have been virtually empty for a year or more. With an increased focus on hygiene and social distancing, facility managers will need to prepare these locations for when employees return. It’s a daunting task, and you may not be sure where to start.
Whether it’s commercial window cleaning, janitorial staff training, fogging, or outdoor spaces, you should review and revamp every aspect of your protocol. Read on for a guide to getting back to work post-pandemic.
Plan for Hygiene, Air Filters, Commercial Window Cleaning, and More
The first step in preparing a facility for the return of workers is to make a plan. If you aren’t up to date on the most recent Covid-19 protocols, start by doing some research. You’ll be better prepared to answer any questions that might arise from staff and others. Make sure to choose reputable, current resources, with a focus on ways to reduce transmission.
Next, review your current cleaning protocols and look for any gaps. A few areas to highlight include:
- High-touch areas
- Air filters and ventilation
- Social distancing
- Outdoor areas
- Training staff
If you use a cleaning service, you’ll want to work together with the commercial cleaner to craft and approve a plan that works for your specific location. To avoid having to hire a third party, ask if they provide specialized services, such as commercial window cleaning and COVID-related sanitizing. An experienced service will be able to provide details of the Covid-specific changes they are making to their disinfection protocols and offer insight into how to meet your specific needs.
Cleaning High-touch Areas
Surfaces people touch frequently, such as door handles, elevator buttons, and handrails, pose an elevated risk of virus transmission. To reduce risk, the janitorial staff should clean them frequently throughout the day.
Since these tend to be in places with a lot of foot traffic, they can be cumbersome to regularly disinfect. Maintaining the cleanliness of high-touch areas without causing crowding or inconvenience may require periodic area closures, shift changes, or the addition of partitions or other barriers.
In office environments, cubicles and other workspaces will have specific disinfection needs, such as keyboards, printers, phones, and more. Since employers may be staggering shifts to reduce the number of people at a given time, make sure to discuss schedules, staff changes, and other pertinent details that could make the cleaning process less disruptive.
Air Filters and the Importance of Ventilation
Recent CDC guidance highlights the role airflow plays in the transmission of Covid-19. Experts consider enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation a risk factor for infections, due to the accumulation of droplets and aerosols. A healthy workplace will plan for increased ventilation and a cleaner air supply.
The CDC suggests a number of strategies to improve ventilation. Many require little to no financial investment and may already be a part of your general maintenance. They include:
- Promoting the influx of outside air. If weather permits, opening windows and doors is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to ventilate a space.
- Using fan placement to pull air outside.
- Reviewing ventilation systems and air filters to make sure they are working properly.
- Using HEPA filter systems, particularly in high-risk areas.
- Running the HVAC system for two hours before and after the building is occupied.
Plan for Social Distancing
Whether employees are heading back full-time or in a hybrid model, you will likely need to modify most areas to provide additional individual space. Changes may require furniture rearrangement or even alterations to floor plans.
Speak to managers and department heads, making sure to include representatives from each floor of the building. If you have different companies working under one roof, consider forming a working group to provide feedback on your plans. As one of the office issues impacting employees the most, social distancing changes should have buy-in from human resources and other key departments.
Take a Look at Your Windows
Many office buildings have been closed for months on end. While their interiors may be free of dirt, the same isn’t true about their windows. Inside and out, they’ve gone through two or three seasons, with dirt and murkiness to show for it.
Consider this reopening for what it is: an opportunity to reintroduce yourself to clients and other stakeholders. Dirty windows aren’t just an eye sore—they reflect your pride in your building. You can protect and enhance your brand reputation with a commercial window cleaning.
Focus on Floors
As a facility manager, you’ve always paid attention to your building’s floors. With the pandemic, this area continues to be vital to maintaining a safe work environment. Respiratory droplets from infected individuals fall to the ground, contaminating surfaces. Although the CDC now considers inhalation of the virus to be a greater risk, infection can still occur via surfaces.
Review the disinfectants that you use on floors and other surfaces. They should be on the list of cleaners approved by the EPA as effective against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) and safe for human health.
The Great Outdoors
The virus spreads more readily indoors, so you may see more workers and visitors taking advantage of outdoor areas, such as patios and entrances. Be prepared for this additional use, and make sure that these spots are safe and have adequate seating. In particular, you should plan for increased usage during lunchtime and coffee breaks.
Besides providing a safe, ventilated space for employees, a well-groomed outdoor area gives your facility the chance to shine. Consider a renovation to make outdoor areas even more inviting.
Tips for Preparing Your Staff
Your janitorial staff is the key to the proper implementation of any change to your cleaning protocols. An effective plan will always take staff education into account.
Be sure to start with a general primer on Covid-19 itself. It can be difficult for people to make changes in their daily routines, so it’s important they understand the reasoning behind the new protocol. Don’t assume everyone has been following pandemic research or has a certain level of knowledge about the virus.
Consider doing a walk-through of your space to highlight the different areas where transmission is a more significant concern. This exercise will help staff visualize the risks, and it will aid them in learning new techniques and routines.
Make sure any training materials are inclusive, particularly in terms of non-native English speakers.
Remember to take human behavior into account. We all want clean, healthy workplaces, but old habits die hard. Each person also has a different level of awareness about the virus and how it is transmitted. You may need to create signage encouraging hand washing, social distancing, and mask usage. Consider working with human resources on training materials and “welcome back” information.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Maybe you should try a commercial cleaning service to take care of all of your cleaning needs and Covid-19 protocols. It will give you peace of mind that everything is well-maintained and safe for workers and guests.
At DTK Facility Services, we can help you get back to work safely and efficiently with commercial window cleaning, janitorial services, fogging, and more. Contact us for a quote today.