As Autumn has progressed, many businesses have welcomed increasing numbers of workers back into the office. Many organisations have embraced the flexibility that home working has enabled. This has led to structuring a ‘blended working’ strategy. The average worker is now in the office for at least 2 days per week, with a plan to increase to 3 days per week. Despite these steps to return to office based working, it’s clear that Covid-19 is going to be a continually present virus. This means that both businesses and individuals must act in ways that are extra Covid-19 cautious this winter.
A winter increase in numbers of staff illness by virus is no new phenomenon. The season involves more time spent indoors, greater proximity to people and generally weakened immune systems. This has always meant that people are more likely to pass on illnesses either in the office, at schools or socially. Covid-19 is now a part of this winter virus risk. Despite the fact that most workers are now fully vaccinated, it’s clear that there is still an element of risk. So in order to reduce the risk of illness making its way around the office floor, businesses can employ best practice to mitigate this.
All organisations are different, have different working practices and different requirements of their staff. However, taking official advice is a good starting point for organisations to draw up a policy. The Government’s Autumn and Winter Plan 2021 was updated on 14th September and gives guidance for businesses safe practice:
In line with government guidance at step 4, an increasing number of workers have gradually returned, or are preparing to return, to offices and workplaces. As workers return to the workplace, employers should follow the Working Safely guidance.
By law, businesses must not ask or allow employees to come to work if they are required to self-isolate.
In addition, businesses are encouraged to:
- a. Ask employees to stay at home if they are feeling unwell.
- b. Ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air to indoor spaces. Businesses should identify any poorly ventilated spaces, for example by using a CO2 monitor, and take steps to improve fresh air flow in these areas.
- c. Provide hand sanitiser to enable staff and customers to clean their hands more frequently, and clean surfaces which people touch regularly.
- d. Display an NHS QR code poster for customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, so they are alerted if there’s an outbreak and can take action to protect others.
- e. Consider using the NHS COVID Pass.
It’s clear, then, that keeping a clean working environment is a crucial aspect of reducing the risk of all virus transmission. So businesses frequently find that the best way to keep their workforce protected is to contract a commercial cleaner for regular workplace cleaning and occasional deep cleaning procedures.
Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule is central in ongoing hygiene standards. This means both daily surface cleaning and seasonal deep cleaning and maintenance. This is the time to begin a ‘new normal’ schedule of office cleaning. One which regularly sanitises shared spaces and heavy duty areas.
Of course, the key area for germ cultivation in an office is desks and IT equipment. Kit like a keyboard, mouse and phone headsets harbour on average 30,000 germs. Especially if your new working practices include hot desking, focus on daily cleaning of these spaces.
This is something not to let slip. Maintain guidance on regular hand washing within your standard policies and signage. Offices should maintain supplies of hand wash, soap and sanitiser in their bathrooms. Washroom management is something to roll into your commercial cleaning contract to ensure nothing is missed.
These are the most commonly touched surfaces across the office building. So meeting tables, light switches, appliance handles, toilets and door handles. When staff return to the office, these areas should be wiped at regular intervals across the day. This extra vigilance can prove crucial in avoiding workplace transmission not just of Covid-19 but also other winter viruses that can impact your business.
Keeping your office ventilated is an important way to minimise the risk of any virus transmission. In winter, this may feel like a hard ask since a building is being centrally heated. Current advice is to ventilate the building for a set period rather than keeping windows open throughout the working day. This action is something that your commercial cleaning contractor can easily add to regular tasks without impacting the flow of the business.
While most businesses are developing ways to be less stringent on social distancing rules, there may be some aspects worth maintaining. These could include one way routes around busy areas of the office, perhaps. Part of the reason that office working is so important to businesses is for the productivity that face to face interaction inspires. So it’s important to find ways to enable this through winter without increasing risk. Maintaining flexible working practices is a great way to decrease overall numbers in the office environment. Well scheduled attendance maintains the contact that is so central to business innovation.
Office environments can be vibrant and energetic places, and at CJH Cleaning we love to play our part in maintaining this energy. To minimise risk of illness in your office this winter through regular cleaning, just get in touch.