Just as we thought we had made it through the cold and flu season, the threat of coronavirus is ever-growing throughout the world and it is even more essential to maintain high hygiene standards throughout our offices. While we all make our best efforts to keep away from germs and viruses, working within such close proximity with others can often mean it is unavoidable.
While general cleanliness is important, a recent study by GCC Facilities Management, providers of office and commercial cleaning, showed a shocking number of common office items are never cleaned. You can see a full range of their commercial cleaning services here. The study showed 28% of telephones, 36% of computer mice and 31% are never cleaned. Considering this is the case when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic, what effect could this be having on us and our employees when there is?
Since 2011, there has been an increase of 12 million sick days taken for preventable illness, such as coughs, colds, and flu. With coronavirus still spreading, who knows what this number could get to. While there is never the promise that we will not catch something, there are certain measures we can take to reduce the risk and keep ourselves and those around us healthy and happy.
1. Allow Time Off
Most employees will still push themselves to go into the office when they are feeling unwell. This could be due to sick leave not being offered, the pressure to finish tasks or simply not wanting to let managers and team members down. However, if someone is feeling unwell, it is likely they are contagious and could spread bacteria and viruses to the entire workforce and their families.
Even if they are feeling well enough to come into work, you should encourage employees to take time off, especially if they are showing one or more symptoms of coronavirus or have been in contact with anyone who has caught it. If you do not offer sick pay, strongly consider doing so during the coming months to encourage honesty from workers so they don’t feel the need to cover their ill-health due to the worry of not being paid.
2. Encourage Working from Home
If the business allows, encourage working from home as much as possible. Especially if your office is based in a major city where the staff is commuting. Public transport can be a breeding ground for bacteria and those travelling from more rural areas into the city can also be transporting viruses between the two locations. If you are unable to offer this to employees, consider allowing commuters to come in later and leave earlier, to miss the rush hour where they are ‘packed like sardines’ and more likely to be infected by other members of the public.
3. Use Hand Sanitiser
Having numerous bottles of hand sanitiser around the office will encourage others to use it as much as possible. Although handwashing is one of the most important things we can do, most employees don’t have the time to be constantly in the washroom. Hand sanitiser makes killing viruses quick and easy, make sure the alcohol content is at least 60% or it may not kill coronavirus.
Unfortunately, there is a nation-wide shortage of hand sanitiser and suppliers are struggling to meet demands. You can, however, make your own with ⅔ cup of rubbing alcohol (at least 60%), 1 cup aloe vera gel (to stop hands drying out) and the optional few drops of essential oils for a nice scent.
4. Provide Extra Cleaning Supplies
You may have professional cleaners come in at the end of the day to spruce up the office. This is a great start but doesn’t prevent germs and viruses from spreading throughout the day. You may have a visiting client in the morning who is carrying something and this could spread to your whole workforce by the afternoon. Sprays, wipes, and other cleaning products should be made readily available to staff so they can cleanse their workstations and desk items periodically throughout the day.
5. Put a Stop to Events and Travelling
Most businesses will send employees to different events and meetings across the country or even throughout the world. Many of these events, such as expos and networking, can have hundreds if not thousands of people in attendance. Naturally, this raises the risk of exposure to viruses. Clients will understand these cancellations and they can always be rescheduled for a later date. You also wouldn’t want to risk leaving a member of staff stranded in another country if there happened to be a travel ban set in place whilst they are there.
6. Encourage Healthy Eating
A great perk for employees is offering free meals and snacks. While we all would always prefer crisps and chocolate, it isn’t the best thing for our bodies. While eating healthily may not prevent us from catching coronavirus, maintaining a healthy body can lessen the symptoms. Offer healthy alternatives to staff, although they may make a few complaints at first, they’ll soon realise it is for their benefit.
Photo credits: eOffice