Right size, Right fit
Hygiene in the workplace is more important than it has ever been. A report by GSK found that 65 percent of people are now more likely to consider health in their day-to-day decision-making. We are also seeing a move to hybrid working. Those working flexibly and remotely part-time will undoubtedly choose to spend as much time at home as possible if they are unsure of the hygiene standards in their workplace.
As the country looks to return to shared spaces and organisations re-open their places of work, it is the time for employers to reconsider their workplace health and hygiene strategy. Investing in workplace hygiene can offer return in both office use and workforce productivity.
An important way of lowering the COVID risk and improving workplace hygiene is improving ventilation. Ventilation will remove stale or contaminated air and bring fresh air into a room. It has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of airborne infection. SAGE, The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies stated that “Ventilation should be integral to the COVID-19 risk mitigation strategy for all multi-occupant public buildings and workplaces”. A study from Harvard found that investing just $40 USD per person, per year on better air quality could return $6,500 USD per person in productivity.
The virus that is not removed through ventilation will land on surfaces and can be picked up to infect others. This is where a rigorous cleaning regime comes into play. However, it has not been as simple as dramatically increasing cleaning provision throughout shared spaces during the pandemic. Rather than upscaling cleaning, providers have made their solutions more targeted to high-risk or high-used areas. Facilities Managers have had to create smarter, data-driven services for cleaning regimes.
Employers are bound under the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) to ensure that a working environment is both reasonable and practical. This means that they must stay on top of the COVID risk and ensure that the return to the workplace takes places smoothly and safely. There are a few key steps to take:
For organisations that do not have a hygiene policy, it is time to create one. Those with one in place should take some time to review and update their policy. A written policy provided to each member of staff helps to promote mutual responsibility for one another’s health and safety in the workplace.
The reality is that you cannot judge the cleanliness of a surface by looking at it. An area that looks clean but has not been disinfected can be at high risk of transmitting illness. Cleaning protocols must be planned and scheduled with site-use in mind. The cleaning team should be aware of high-risk touch points that are used throughout the day. This will include doorknobs and light switches, for example. Cleaning should be scheduled according to area use and risk level. Data-led cleaning informed by regular swab tests can be used to provide a high level of safety.
Introducing a hygiene protocol will have little effect if individuals don’t or cannot follow it. Soap dispensers must be regularly stocked, and notices can help prompt people to wash their hands regularly. Providing hand sanitizer in communal high-risk areas can also help.
In addition to limiting coronavirus risk, clean and hygienic workplaces reduce the chance of any other infectious illness spreading, down to the common cold or annual flu. Poorly managed and ventilated buildings can have such an impact, that the issue has been called ‘sick building syndrome’. With absenteeism down to ill health costing UK employers £16bn a year, this is not to be overlooked. Clean offices and workplaces will be vital in attracting workers back, but they do go further than this, promoting productivity and wellbeing for users too.
This period has been a challenge for the FM sector, but it has also prompted innovation in areas such as touchless visitor management systems that we will see brought forward after the pandemic has passed. Many will be reorganising, refitting their sites, adjusting business plans, and managing the unexpected financial challenge. But cleanliness must not be forgotten or assumed.
At Anabas, our COVID-19 decontamination services provide reassurance to our clients their workplace has been thoroughly sanitised. We are also working with our clients to plan the new cleaning protocols for returning to the office and the social distancing measures which are being considered for each workplace.
If you would like support in implementing effective cleaning regimes and social distancing measures to support your return to the workplace, please contact us.