Why are we talking about this? Cleaning may not be our focus, but it is an important part of the story for returning to the office. We’ve collected some of the most useful research to help you navigate the right way to manage some of the common safety concerns as you reopen the office.
Once everyone returns to the office, we’ll find ourselves thinking differently about the equipment and surfaces around us, reaching for a disinfecting wipe where we’d never give a second thought before.
While it’s understandable to experience a little apprehension as we venture back to the office, it’s achievable and valuable to keep our common spaces healthy. Whether engaging in maintenance cleaning, or CDC-advised disinfection for exposed spaces, office cleaning practices come down to the same basic tenets: The right equipment, a solid plan, and a team.
This office cleaning checklist will help you collect the right materials for your everyday routine, establish a thoughtful plan, and put it into practice in your office with help from your team.
For a quick recap, share our office safety one-pager with your team.
Use the right office cleaning process
While our reaction to the virus has been (understandably) to default to “disinfect everything,” in everyday situations the CDC recommends cleaning rather than disinfection. What’s the difference? In short:
• Cleaning is for routine health and wellness. Washing down surfaces using a green cleaner or a simple soap-and-water solution can make them safe by removing dust and dirt. This also physically removes germs by picking them up (either in a paper towel or cloth) to safely remove them.
• Disinfection, on the other hand, kills germs by means of a chemical process. The CDC recommends disinfection only when someone has been working in or visiting the office while carrying a contagious illness; it doesn’t have to occur for routine cleaning.
Note: If you need to disinfect, follow the CDC guidelines.
Also, in any cleaning or disinfection routine, it is important to read and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Never mix cleaning agents. Doing so can be harmful or even fatal.
Gather the right cleaning tools
Depending on the reason for cleaning (simple cleaning, deep cleaning, or disinfection) you’ll need a few items at hand:
☐ Nitrile gloves (latex can cause allergic reactions in some individuals)
☐ Paper towels, or microfiber cloths (if you can wash and sanitize them after use)
☐ Green cleaning spray
☐ Disinfecting wipes, spray, or a correctly-diluted bleach solution
☐ Trash bags
☐ For disinfection: A properly-rated respirator mask and protective gown
Create an office safety and health plan
To create a cleaning routine, it helps to think about the typical hotspots that transmit bacteria and viruses.
1. Make a note of the traffic through certain areas of the office, and the ways in which space is used—or not. In the course of this mental inventory, you may even uncover ways to improve or maximize your space usage as a side-benefit to your cleaning plan development. For instance, you may find areas you don’t need to attend to for cleaning purposes. They may turn out to be underutilized real estate.
2. Look through your office one area at a time, and note the high-touch areas in each. Some of the typical transmission vectors in spaces include:
• Tables and desks
• Light switches
• Cabinet pulls and handles
Some of the other high touch areas in your office spaces to consider:
Front desk and reception areas
• Phones, computer mice, and keyboards
• Desk accessories such as staplers, tape dispensers, and pen-cups
• Digital touchscreens
• Elevator buttons
• Coat-racks and hangers
Kitchen and break rooms
• Appliance handles and controls (fridge, toaster, oven, dishwasher)
• Chair-backs at seating areas
• Coffee station and coffee/tea service items
• Bathroom fixtures (toilet handles, faucets, soap and towel dispensers)
• Door and stall handles
• Changing stations and convenience item dispensers
Conference and meeting rooms
• Technology controls such as speakerphone buttons, remotes
• Televisions, touchscreens, and projectors
• Whiteboard accessories such as pens and erasers
Mail and resource rooms
• Postage meters, scales, and dedicated shipping computers
• Packaging and mail tools such as tape guns, letter openers, box cutters
• Rolling package bins, trolleys, and carts
Develop that office cleanliness plan
Following a regular cleaning and disinfection schedule for the office is the best way to maintain the hygiene of your spaces and the health of your colleagues.
While no cleaning schedule is one-size-fits-all, a daily practice of cleaning high-touch areas, along with an intermittent practice of deep cleaning (including things like upholstery, window treatments, and carpets) and sanitizing surfaces can create a healthy environment year-round.
When to increase office cleaning frequency
Sometimes you may increase or augment your normal cleaning and disinfection practices:
• During local outbreaks of transmissible diseases or illnesses
• During “peak” season for influenza, or at the beginning of the school year (a time when the common cold finds a foothold in households)
• During large-scale events in the office: holiday gatherings, stockholder or board meetings, all-hands events, etc.
• When someone goes home sick from the office with something transmissible
Don’t skip the dusting
It’s tempting to focus solely on areas where hands or respiratory droplets may travel, but dust can be a vector for illnesses like COVID-19, cold, and flu. An “airborne” disease achieves its fast spread by hitching a ride on dust particles and aerosolized moisture. Besides reducing the spread of illness, improving your indoor air quality can make breathing easier for those with dust allergies, asthma, and other respiratory sensitivities.
Promoting good office hygiene
In the wake of social distancing, getting your team on board with office hygiene likely won’t meet with much resistance. Even so, there are several ways you can encourage your staff to keep up these healthy habits once things start to settle into the new normal.
☐ Encourage good hand-washing and respiratory hygiene practices within your office.
☐ Discourage presenteeism in the office – consciously create an office culture where it is “okay” to work from home or take the day off when you’re feeling ill.
☐ Keep supplies stocked and readily available. Make sure supply cabinets are well marked.
☐ Place wipes, sanitizer, paper towels, and waste bins (for easy disposal) at strategic spots in high-traffic areas.
☐ Make space-hygiene practices a regular part of corporate communication.
☐ Get your staff into the habit of pitching in – proactively wiping down surfaces they use (even when they’re healthy), making recommendations on cleaning practices, supply levels, or areas in need of attention, etc.
☐ Provide a channel for the above improvements and service requests, either through a formal ticketing system or simply an email with a dedicated gatekeeper.
☐ Consider automatic or “touchless” office upgrades that reduce contact, such as:
• Motion-detecting light switches
• Entry and in-office doors
• Towel dispensers and hand-dryers
• Soap/sanitizer/lotion dispensers
Office safety and health: Keep a good thing going
Coming up with a plan and covering all the necessary areas is a great first step in promoting a healthier, cleaner office environment. Once done, the objective is to maintain that level of enthusiasm within the office. Make healthy environments part of your overall wellness culture within the office, and promote the ideas in this guide when the opportunity arises.