No matter what industry you’re in, as long as you work in an office, you’re always at risk of catching a disease. Enclosed, air-conditioned spaces spread and transmit viruses faster than open-air places. That’s why during the strongest wave of COVID-19, commercial establishments and offices were closed, and people were encouraged to choose open-air venues for their small gatherings.
Now that we’re starting to return to normal, though, offices and commercial establishments are reopening. But your practices inside those spaces, particularly in the office, should change for good. From now on, you can longer place cleanliness as a second or last priority. Even if you already got vaccinated, you shouldn’t stop observing the health protocols that have been drilled to you last year. Since we’re now aware of how fast viruses can spread, we can’t afford another outbreak, let alone a pandemic.
Considering that, can offices still work the way they always do without risking anyone’s health? It’s not as if we can move our workplaces outdoors, or remove our AC units. So what makes offices a haven for viruses?
Offices are Plagued With Germs
It all starts with germs. If you arrive in the office and start typing on your keyboard right away, without washing your hands first, you’re causing contamination on your keyboard. The germs you’ve brought from your commute or drive get transferred to all the things and surfaces you’d touch.
If lunchtime arrives and you haven’t washed your hands still, you’re likely to get sick if your hands made contact with your food. And again, the rest of the objects and surfaces you’d touch would be contaminated. Worse, certain germs can live for weeks, including the norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. If you happen to carry that virus, your office may face a gastrointestinal disease outbreak soon.
We pass germs and viruses through our droplets and hands. In the office, we often hold meetings, eat together, and sit close to each other with or without desk partitions. Every time we speak to a co-worker face-to-face, the viruses we carry find their next host in our co-worker. The same happens when we shake hands, share things, or touch surfaces other people also touch a lot.
So make it a habit to clean and disinfect all the objects and surfaces you frequently touch. That would be your phone, computers, shared printers and copiers, phones, doorknobs, cabinet handles, and faucets. Those are the things and places where most office germs inhabit.
How Germs Accumulate in the Office
The routines we maintain in our offices are actually major culprits of germ accumulation. Aside from touching surfaces without washing your hands, the food you bring to your desk, your clutter, and working while sick spread germs and diseases as well.
If your office has carpeted floors, any liquid that leaks or spills on it will get absorbed, and thus leave stains that will soon breed bacteria. Only professional commercial office cleaners can take those off. But sadly, not many offices regularly avail such services. They usually delay them because of the costs. But if you come to think of it, it’ll cost you more to clean an office that’s been harboring years’ worth of dirt.
Office clutter also creates an ideal environment for bacteria, another reason to prioritize workplace cleanliness. Misplaced papers can be stepped on, or catch food residue. And on a different note, they may also compromise the confidentiality of the information they contain. So employees must be reminded to file their papers and work material properly.
Lastly, working while sick, of course, spreads viruses without a doubt. But sometimes, this can’t be helped; some company cultures and unrealistic expectations force sick employees to come to work. While there are really instances when you can’t commit absenteeism, ask if you can work from home instead. A single employee shouldn’t risk their co-workers’ health just because of their high-priority task.
Encouraging Employees to Keep the Office Clean
Even if you can hire office cleaners, it’s still your responsibility to keep your workplace clean. If you’re the owner of the company, establish a cleaning routine that everyone can follow. For example, set aside two days of a year for a general cleanup. During those days, employees should tidy up their personal spaces and the common areas.
Making cleaning supplies available is a good move as well. It’ll urge employees to deal with a mess immediately because they’ll have no excuse to leave it behind.
And to ensure that everyone will comply with the cleaning guidelines, call out anyone who fails to follow. It may not be the kindest move, but no one should get a pass for being irresponsible, especially if they’re habitual offenders. Besides, you’re not really shaming; you’re just building a culture of accountability.
Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s only reasonable to expect your employees to be more conscious of their own health and hygiene from now on. So start implementing a stricter cleanliness protocol while the apprehension is still fresh in everyone’s minds.