(excerpted from the Health story in the March 2 issue of the Washington Post)
Offices Need To Prepare Themselves Beyond Coronavirus
The spread of COVID-19 is affecting offices around the world. The virus is zoonotic, meaning it is transmitted between animals and people. Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. The focus today is on how to contain the spread. Health officials are trying to control it through strict health measures that offices need to incorporate into their businesses.
One does not need to look too far to find a recent example of a health pandemic and what offices did to help prevent the spread. SARS is why we already have antibacterial sanitizer in most offices. Last week, Bill Gates warned that Coronavirus might be the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about’.
It also might not be. Another pathogen may come in the future, and we must be prepared for it. For now, follow this advice to minimize your exposure and maximize yoiur ability to fight it:
- Limit Surfaces That Employees Need To Touch With Their Hands
- Doors don’t need handles and can swing open both ways by just pushing them with your foot or shoulder.
- Install motion lights in all rooms, including bathrooms. (Doing this is also environmentally friendly)
- Install motion sensors to all bathroom features; most new offices already have this. One should not have to touch a faucet to wash their hands.
- Embrace Technology
- Design office space that embrace collaboration technology and remote work. If you create pilot programs that helps employees become efficient at working from home from time-to-time, they will be better equipped to work from home on days they are feeling sick. Or when they are afraid of catching a pathogen.
- Your workspace should maximize video conferencing. This includes thinking through office space design to add phone booths or small conference rooms over individual offices so people can connect better with those working from home. If employees are going to work form home more often then offices can double down on shared areas with rotating desks for those who work from home some days of the week who don’t need designated desks at your office.
- Invest in personal laptops, tablets, and phones for your employees, so they aren’t sharing keyboards and computers. Employees can commute with their devices. Giving every employee their own devices that they are responsible for will limit the number of wires and desk objects so cleaning crews can keep your office space clean and healthy.
- Invest in blue tooth technology in your conference rooms. Employees should be able to use their cellphones to connect to a conference call that play in your conference room without having to touch the speaker or a shared phone. We all already do this to listen to music; we can do the same for conference calls!
- Choose Furnishing That Is Easy To Clean If you are a new parent of either a human child or a feline one, you know the importance of only investing in-home furniture that is easy to clean. This should be the same for your office space. In many offices, building or third party cleaning crews come in at the end of the day to clea
- Clean Office Space Often Many offices may want to skimp out of daily cleaning. You shouldn’t. Environmentally friendly cleaning crews must come in to disinfect anything that might be contaminated. A designated person in your office should go over what products cleaning crews are using (you want them not to be hazardous to the environment or your employees, while also killing any germs that can cause your employees to get sick). Additionally, you will want to make sure they are correctly cleaning things like the refrigerator and copy machines.
- Install Sanitizer in every conference room, shared spaces, and reception area. We started doing this nearly 20-years ago. This will NEVER go out of style. Even if no one uses it, you are singling to all visitors that you expect your office to be clean and healthy so employees and their visitors can thrive.
- Update Your Refrigerator In many offices, it is already a cesspool of who knows what. However, there has been technological advancement in refrigerators. For instance, if you are redesigning an office space, you can now install refrigerator drawers. Each department can have their draw. However, that isn’t an option for everyone. Another option could be to have more than one fridge. One refrigerator for employees food the other used for your guests or free drinks for your employees. Handles need to be disinfected regularly. You can install some hand sanitizer next to the refrigerator door.
- You Can Never Have Enough Disinfect Wipes. Gift each of your employees a tube for them to keep at their desk. If that is too much. keep a bunch of them in a common area that tstocklhey have easy access to.
- Resupply/Stock Your First Aid Kit Did you know that zinc lozenges are proven to be effective in blocking Coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx? Additionally, Latex gloves and surgical masks can come in handy if your employees are worried. Stock up on all over the counter first aid, so your employees feel you have their best interest at heart.
It is vital to not just think about Coronavirus but also about future pathogens and the health of your prospective employees. We must rethink how we work and how we design our work space to ensure we all stay healthy, efficient, and useful