Full-time, part-time or a mix of the two, a growing number of us are heading back to the office after working from home for the last 16 months. In that time, most of us have had our thinking massively reset around hygiene and the spread of viruses in public spaces.
In this blog post, we share our insights into how viruses can be spread within a workplace, and how to minimise the risk of infection among colleagues through effective hygiene practices…
How can viruses spread in the workplace?
When it comes to the workplace, research tells us that virus spread is pretty rapid – whether via shared touch points or through the air, it happens in a matter of hours. Many of the top culprits for touchpoint transmission are pretty obvious – those surfaces we all use without even thinking about it, like door handles, buttons on lifts, vending machines, light switches, coffeepots, microwaves and fridge door handles.
Others are arguably more surprising – your desktop, keyboard, mouse and phone are often used by others besides you, particularly in hot-desking or job-sharing scenarios. A 2018 University of Arizona study reported 400 times more bacteria found on a typical office desk than an average toilet seat – a sobering thought as we gradually make the shift from home working back to the office.
Airborne spread happens when someone talks, coughs or sneezes and tiny water droplets containing the virus or bacteria scatter through the air or end up in the hands where they’re later spread onto surfaces. Workplaces are clearly ideal spaces for this type of transmission too.
Common workplace viruses
We live in a world full of microorganisms – tiny bacteria, viruses or fungi too small to see. Most of them are completely harmless and some are vital to our very existence, helping to make the oxygen we breathe. Others are used to make medicines, but a few can cause harm by infection, allergy or by being toxic.
Offices and workplaces are a prime environment for the spread of these harmful microorganisms, where large numbers of people are interacting in close proximity. A virus spreading in the workplace is of course, bad news: it happens quickly and easily, can have serious health consequences for many, and can even shut down a small or medium sized business if large numbers of staff are unable to work due to ill health.
We’re all familiar with the common cold, the ‘flu’ and ‘norovirus’ as some of the most prevalent workplace viruses. But COVID-19 is a recent and more worrying addition to this list, spreading more easily, mutating into different strains and causing severe illness and even death in certain groups. Since April 2020, while other viruses have proven less prevalent than usual thanks to lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic has accounted for 14% of all sickness absence in the workplace.
How to combat viruses in the workplace
Although the facts can be worrying, it’s not all doom and gloom. Our antibacterial wipes kill a number of viruses, including Covid-19. From regularly wiping down those frequently used surfaces and touchpoints, to upping the game on our hand washing and boosting ventilation, there are a lot of fairly straightforward steps we can all take to help avoid the spread of viruses in the workplace.
1. Clean and disinfect surfaces to remove harmful viruses
- Try to identify and list all those high-risk touchpoints – the places where people come into contact with surfaces such as door handles, tea and coffee making facilities, phones, desks, light switches, lift buttons, toilets, taps, keyboards and so on.
- Create a planned programme of scheduled cleaning of these touch points with disinfectant wipes and encourage staff to take responsibility too by leaving packs of wipes on desks. Our range of antibacterial workplace wipes are specifically designed for all those individual and communal office spaces, they work well for businesses of all sizes and are available to purchase in bulk orders on request.
- Make sure any communal crockery and cutlery are thoroughly washed, preferably in a dishwasher.
- Carry out daily deep cleans of office spaces if possible, from the toilets to the kitchens. This will help pick up any missed areas and reassure employees that their own efforts are being backed up by a thorough approach.
2. Practise good hand hygiene
- It has become second nature these days for us all to wash our hands regularly throughout the day. Employers can help maintain this well-established routine by providing clean hand-washing facilities and offering alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
- There’s no harm in over-stating the importance of hygiene in a pandemic. Promoting messaging on signs, via the intranet or through staff emails will help to remind employees.
- Provide and use boxes of tissues to avoid viruses spreading onto hands.
3. Minimise contact and maximise fresh air
- Where space allows, put in place one-way systems and display social distancing signs.
- Use a questionnaire to screen staff and visitors before they enter the building, ensuring anyone with symptoms stays away.
- Encourage staff to work from home if they can and consider creating teams who work exclusively together to reduce the risk of virus spread in the workplace.
- Where space allows, create greater distances between desks and pods, using tape on the floor as a reminder to staff.
- Open workplace windows if you can, and make sure any ventilation systems are working properly and adjusted to provide the maximum air exchanges per hour.
A bit of vigilance and a few trusted cleaning products are excellent tools in the fight against workplace viruses. Our disinfecting wipes are highly effective, proven to kill 99.999% of bacteria, as well as enveloped viruses including SARS-Cov 2 which causes COVID-19. Get in touch today for your free sample, and future-proof your cleaning.