Returning to the office: wiping worries away

Business Insights

Despite restrictions lifting and a return to ‘normal’ in most sectors, one area that is in a limbo of sorts, is office working. We are no longer required to work from home and are free to return to the office, and yet, many businesses are choosing not to. Whether this is due to the flexibility that home-working offers or a new working structure employed, one reason for not returning to pre-pandemic office life should not be fear; fear that your office is not a clean or safe environment.

Ventilating rooms, encouraging hand washing, installing sanitising stations and asking colleagues to maintain relative social distancing are all key in supporting a safe transition to the office, but perhaps most crucial to this COVID chapter are the cleaning methods instated.

There are a multitude of cleaning products available; with varying claims made about their uses, ingredients or uniqueness. By understanding what these claims mean and how each should be used to achieve the optimum results, businesses can make the transition for employees returning to the office as comfortable and worry-free as possible. Companies will have already had cleaning regimes for business premises in place - perhaps an in-house cleaner or outsourced agency – but previous procedures are no longer valid in a COVID world.

The frequency and thoroughness that areas are cleaned needs to increase to limit the transmission of the virus, and the products used will need an overhaul. A quick wipe down with your standard cleaning product will no longer cut it. All touch points and surfaces need to be sterilised regularly – at least twice a day, shared spaces need to be sanitised and areas that can often be forgotten about, need attention. The cleaning frequency will be determined by the number of employees onsite, so as more workers return to the office, the number of times the site is cleansed will also need to increase. A sanitiser that is certified to be effective at killing the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which causes COVID-19 is a must. To protect those using the cleaning products and the surfaces being cleansed, products should be free from harmful chemicals and use natural ingredients where possible.

The entire business sector is under huge pressure to protect their staff and ensure facilities are protected against COVID-19 while also maintaining day-to-day cleanliness. Not all cleaning jobs call for harsh chemical solutions and there can be wider environmental and health implications for workers if institutes are unaware of the alternative cleaning solutions available.

The utilisation of natural, biodegradable active ingredients offers a safer alternative to many of the harsh chemicals commonly used for sanitisation. There is also the environmental impact to take into consideration. The manufacturing process and in-use implications of using harsh chemicals should not be ignored, and whilst sanitising and disinfection is paramount to protecting staff and visitors, the long-term effects of traditional disinfecting agents could be detrimental.

Cleaning staff need to be fully trained in using products and equipment, which may be different from what they are used to. All products need to be made up according to instructions to ensure safe and effective use.

For equipment that may be hard to clean or require specialist products, specific procedures should be developed and adhered to. Bosses could consider wipeable covers on electronics which can be cleaned more easily.

With public concern about germs and bacteria at an all-time high, reassurance is crucial – even more so for those who have been sheltered, working from their own homes for the past year and a half.

Using effective and application-appropriate cleaning solutions will be key to keeping your business working safely and advancing a safe return to the office in a post-pandemic world.

By Dr Emma Saunders, Genesis Biosciences General Manager