The novel coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) practically changed the way we work and live overnight. As more and more cases appear each day it has become clear that this virus will be something we will have to live with until we either reach herd immunity or a vaccine is made. For the time being, this virus has forced U.S. businesses to either shut their doors for good or work at 25% capacity. On top of that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also known as the CDC) has recommended that Americans ban any social gatherings of up to 10 people until more data has been gathered on how this pathogen spreads.
While some companies might be able to operate remotely, many other companies that have a proprietary system or work with sensitive information don’t have that type of flexibility. This is why we wanted to take this opportunity to provide some safe ways to keep your employees healthy while still get the job done around the office during this pandemic.
It is not enough to simply wash, clean, and disinfect your office. To make sure that everyone continues to be safe during this pandemic you also have to change how you communicate with others, incorporate a good signage strategy, and if need be, change your company culture. After reading this blog, our end goal is to hopefully educate you on the areas where you might be lacking while also bring health awareness.
While the U.S. is doing everything to minimize the spread of this virus, we can all do our part by properly cleaning and disinfecting surface areas and practicing social distancing. Doing these two things in the office will reduce or eliminate the viral count of COVID-19 on surface areas.
A detailed set of instructions on how to clean and disinfect your workspace can be found on the CDC’s website as well as a list of EPA-Approved disinfectants that are effective at combating against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). While we do encourage all business owners to read, review, and follow their guidelines as closely as possible, we wanted to make sure that we highlighted some of their key points:
- Make sure that you are using disposable gloves, masks, and gowns whenever you are cleaning and disinfecting. Once finished, carefully remove and throw them into your trash disposal.
- Before you start disinfecting you should start by cleaning the surface area. Using detergents or other soaps during your cleaning process will remove particles that might carry the COVID-19 on surfaces. Taking this first step will also reduce the viral load before you begin the disinfecting process, which helps the disinfectant products remove and kill the remaining virus.
- There are plenty of EPA approved disinfectants listed on the CDC’s website, they are easy-to-access household solutions which is bleach and water. The CDC recommends:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water. (Good for floors and larger surface cleaning.)
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water (Handy for spray bottle applications.)
- If you are more comfortable using disinfecting wipes, such as Clorox or Lysol wipes, remember that to properly disinfect a surface area, you should clean one item at a time. The surface that you are cleaning should stay wet for at least 4 minutes once done.
- The CDC also advises that you do not mix these products together.
- If you have many high-touch surface areas in your office, clean and disinfect them daily (e.g. doorknobs, light switches, phone receivers and keypads, tables, hard-backed chairs, handles, touchscreens, desks, toilets, sinks).
- When it comes to electronics and large office equipment (LIKE A COPIER), clean and disinfect those items a few times a day.
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Workspace Signage and Communication Tips
One of the best ways to keep your employees safe and keeping their spirits up is by providing a clear and calm message on how your plans to navigate through this pandemic. Be prepared to be the voice of reason and stability, as your employees will need constant reassurance and support that everything will be ok. Many of your employees might be going through some tough times and could be dealing with some emotional trauma as a result of COVID-19. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make sure that during your weekly, monthly, or quarterly company meetings your message is clear, concise, and well worded. Any relevant information about how your company or industry is doing needs to be communicated in a timely and calm manner.
- Open up some easy to use channels in case your staff needs to reach out to you about any concerns or needs that they may have. You might also have to create new accommodations for any specific needs to arise during this pandemic.
- Proper signage in and around the office can also help everyone stay mindful and encourages safety. Posting information on cleaning recommendations, social distancing, and symptom checks are a good start. The CDC has developed a series of printable materials and posters for use in community settings.
Transitioning From The Office To Working From Home
For some, switching over to a home office might be challenging especially if your company has never had that type of business culture. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced us to make those adjustments practically overnight. If you are forced to switch many of your employees to a work-from-home structure, here are some tips to make that transition:
- Regardless if it’s an in-person company meeting or a virtual one, you need to make sure that your message stays consistent and clear. Updates about your location, industry, current work culture, and the state of the pandemic should be provided promptly while still keeping a steady tone.
- In this day in age, you have your options on the type of software and technology you want to use to run your business. You just need to make sure that it is used consistently across the entire company including communication, video conferencing, and project management.
- Make sure that you are cleaning all spaces in your office regularly, share or not, and remind everyone that they need to clean and sanitize their desks and equipment as soon as they are done for the day. Sometimes office space gets shared as you may have day shifts and night shifts. If this sounds like your company, take extra steps to make sure you wiping down your station after you leave.
- Take advantage of some free internal communication channels, such as Slack or Robin, to post relevant company updates.
- Your communication with your team should stay consistent. With your employees now working from home, team collaboration will drop a bit because they no longer have that face-to-face interaction. This is why you must prioritize your communication through daily or weekly posts, emails, and video calls. That being said, you also want to be mindful of how much time you are taking out of your workday.
- You also want to encourage social interactions beyond just talking about work all day. This is the time to encourage your staff to do digital get-togethers in the form of team lunches, happy hour, and downtime via video calls (FaceTime or Zoom).
- You should also be checking in once in a while with your team to find out what’s working and where people might need some extra support.
- Working from home due to COVID-19 will require a lot of downtime at home, which could lead to an unclear view of what is work and what is non-work. This is a great opportunity to encourage a work-life balance.
Steps You Can Take Now If You’re Heading Back To The Office
As our economy starts to slowly reopen, you’re going to want to take this time to prepare your workspace so that you can reduce the spread of the virus. Here are some ideas that you can include:
- Try to have as many disinfecting wipes and virus-killing sanitizers as possible throughout your office and make sure that everyone is knowledgeable about how to use them effectively. As an added touch, put out a few unscented lotions around your office, as hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes tend to dry out your hands. Become a promoter of washing and disinfecting surface areas so that your employees begin to accept these changes.
- We know that at first there won’t be any rhythm on how you should properly clean. However, as you start applying this daily you will slowly begin to make adjustments on the steps that need to be followed when cleaning your office. Your cleaning routine can always be improved.
- If you have the budget for it, try switching to touch-reducing amenities such as double-swinging push doors, motion sensor lights, and other hands-free amenities. This will also help reduce the spread of germs in high-traffic areas in your office.
- If there is no fixed seating in your office and your employees share a desk at different times of the day, make sure that they clean their workstation, their equipment, and other highly touched surface areas as soon as they leave or move to another cubicle.
We hope that by implementing these simple guidelines in your daily operations your employees will feel more at ease during these challenging times. And if you have any additional questions or concerns about COVID-19 in your office, at school, or home, you can find more resources provided by the CDC here.