So, we’re slowly being encouraged back.
There’s a palpable feeling across the UK, whether from the government, the employer, or both, to start showing our faces around that place we called the ‘office’ – back in the heady days of 2019.
And perhaps that’s no bad thing. Video conferencing is great, but hour after hour on Zoom can take its toll, leaving you pretty drained by Friday. But far from preparing ourselves for ‘the grand reunion’, and the Monday to Friday commute, the vast majority of companies are sensibly adopting a staggered approach. A hybrid. A healthy blend of home and office working, with different departments meeting up on different days.
It makes perfect sense. And it’s a scenario that is likely to continue for some considerable time given that:
a) Tackling COVID-19 is all about mitigating risk – and companies realise there’s simply no need to have the entire workforce in the building five days a week.
b) Home working has seen staff question why they need to spend so much time commuting – leading employers to change working habits and offer flexible working conditions.
But this new approach requires vigilance, both when back in the office, and also at the desk at home. We’ve all heard the Chief Medical Officers talk about the increased transmissibility of the latest COVID-19 Delta variant.
Given the familiarity and comfort of the home-working environment, it’s easy to forget just how important it is to maintain those same high levels of cleanliness and disinfection that the office sees on a routine basis. For the sake of both you and your colleagues.
Let’s take a look at the actions that can be taken to minimise the transmission of bacteria between home and office.
Home office cleaning
There’s a world of difference between ‘tidy’ and ‘clean’. And given the relative permanence, personalisation and comfort of the home office environment, it’s easy to fall into the trap of settling for the former. This is my work environment. I know where everything is. An uncluttered desk is good enough for me. (Rarely do you think to yourself: how do I deep clean my home office?)
But this logic breaks down with flexi working, and the split between the home and the workplace. And with the information we have on COVID-19, and its ability to sit for days on all manner of surfaces: plastic keyboards, mice and stationery, wooden desks and chairs. You really don’t want to be the employee who unwittingly carries the virus back into the office midweek.
Whilst deeper cleans are also recommended on a monthly basis, the steps outlined below describe what could easily become a quick routine at the end of the working day – wiping down those areas you’ve come into contact with most often, and laying down a thin layer of disinfectant to prevent bacterial and virus spread.
• Keyboard – The average computer keyboard harbours a staggering number of bacteria and viruses – precisely because it is largely overlooked when cleaning. Yet given the time spent each day in contact with the hands, this piece of equipment should be top priority when cleaning the home office. The keyboard should be periodically turned upside down and shaken over a bin to remove loose/visible grime, prior to using soft cloths and disinfecting wipes for proper sanitisation. And focus on that space bar – the most frequently used key on the board.
o NB – A deeper clean might involve using canned air and cotton buds to free some of the dust trapped between keys – and it’s even worth removing individual keys to coat with disinfectant – allowing the moisture to work its anti-bacterial magic away from the electrics.
• Mouse – The mouse is another bacteria-riddled hotbed. (Just because it only comes into contact with one hand doesn’t mean it is 50% less infected than the keyboard.) The same care and attention should be paid to both mouse and mousepad when cleaning and disinfecting – just remember to disconnect from any power source before applying moist anti-bacterial products. Once again, canned air and toothpicks might help shift the dust and dirt from the tiny crevices.
• Desk – The desk is unquestionably easier to clean than actual computer equipment, but that shouldn’t mean a slap-dash approach. And when you consider the number of times you’ve actually eaten biscuits, sandwiches, fruit sitting in front of your screen (not a recommended practice btw), then maintaining a sparkling, germ-free work surface becomes of paramount hygienic importance too.
Sure, the desk gets cluttered over the day, and there are certain objects that never move at all, but remember: nothing is actually nailed down. Objects can move – and ideally, you should start with a blank slate at the end of each day, enabling the easy removal of visible
grime, and the smooth, zig-zagging application of an anti-bacterial film.
• Chair – Most office chairs are made of fabric, which can mean they are easily stainable, attract dust, and are pretty tough to clean. You’ll need a (handheld) vacuum cleaner with powerful suction to lift the stray hairs and debris from the folds and corners, but a damp
sponge will be more effective on engrained stains.
If the chair has a wood or plastic rim, you should use anti-bacterial wipes to mitigate against bacteria and viral strains – paying specific attention to those areas that you touch most often: the chair back, the height adjustment lever, and any arms. And incredible though it sounds, the COVID-19 virus can also survive for up to 3 days on fabric, so you’ll also want to ensure that you coat the surface of the chair with product periodically at the end of the day.
Cleaning products to get your hands on
We’ve touched on the variety of tools you can use to maintain a clean home office: from multipurpose wipes and household sprays to canned air, cotton buds and toothpicks for a more thorough, deep-clean approach. (There’s something very CSI about applying high-pressure air through a fine straw, whilst picking away at minute dust particles with a toothpick…, and you may even feel obliged
to don a white lab coat.)
Yet whilst these products all excel in the ‘visible removal of grime’ department – admirably performing a curative role – it’s also vitally important to take preventative measures to ensure bacteria and viruses don’t take root on those objects and areas in such frequent daily use. Our range of wipes have some of the highest EN-accreditations available, and offer a heightened level of protection against viruses, fungi and bacteria strains than many of the products found on the cleaning aisles of supermarkets.
Why home hygiene is so important
Who are we to attempt to second guess the ‘average’ home office setting? We’ve little doubt that these supposedly makeshift environments come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.., from the kitchen table, to bedroom corner desks, to the more elaborate, restyled garden shed.
But work from home hygiene ought to be one, central common denominator – with recognised high frequency touchpoints – irrespective of the home-office setup. This is all about risk mitigation.
Scientists and medical experts are pretty much in agreement that the COVID-19 virus is going to be with us for some time, and we’re going to have to live with it circulating amongst us. So the onus is very much on us to take the steps we can to protect ourselves, and our fellow workers.
And with an increasingly hybrid working environment, this means increased levels of sanitization and hygiene in the home.