Prior to 2020, the workplace was already changing. Technological advances, remote work, wellness initiatives…every day there was something new. Just keeping up with whether open offices were innovative and trendy or overrated and unproductive was a full-time job. Then, the pandemic came along and accelerated that shift even further.
Now, more than ever, employees need to know that companies are taking the proper precautions to keep them safe. The things people are looking for in an employer are shifting just like the workplace itself. Beanbag chairs and a pingpong table in the breakroom aren’t going to cut it anymore. Brands must be in tune with the needs brought on by our new reality or risk falling behind for good.
Perhaps we will never get “back to normal,” but maybe it’s for the best. It’s time to reimagine a new way forward. We sat down with Kelly Walowski, Global Account Consultant for Ambius, to outline five key areas to help corporations and facility managers establish brand confidence through proper health and hygiene measures.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to revamp their hygiene policies,” said Kelly Walowski. “Tenants will be more aware of health and safety as they re-enter the workplace, making it critical for companies to display a new and improved commitment to creating smarter, healthier working environments.”
Here are five ways you can create smarter, healthier spaces during and after the pandemic:
1. Focus on indoor air quality
Tenants are spending more time indoors, increasing the risk of exposure to a range of contaminants, microbes, allergens, and pollutants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), studies of exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times (or sometimes even more) higher than outdoor levels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released guidelines in February 2021 for building owners and managers to aid in creating safe workplaces. Along with a general inspection for HVAC functionality, the CDC recommends implementing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) units to increase air filtration as much as possible.
“Not just any air filtration system will provide the proper purification,” said Walowski. “The CDC recommends a 4-stage filtration process that includes HEPA13 and carbon filters. Knowing and understanding which ventilation improvements can best serve the needs of tenants is the first step to creating a smarter, healthier space.”
2. Create a hand hygiene culture
Whether or not a person washes their hands well or even on a regular basis is up to the individual. Placing mobile hand hygiene units around the facility gives a visual cue that “right now” is a great time to sanitize.
Placing hand hygiene dispensers in “high traffic” areas and throughout the entire facility can significantly reduce the risk of spread. High traffic areas include:
- Break rooms
- Common areas
- Communal work areas
- Elevator banks
- Meeting rooms
- Reception areas and lobbies
3. Take disinfection beyond a simple “wipe-down” method
High traffic areas should also receive additional disinfection treatments to control the spread of germs. While traditional spray and wipe-down cleaning methods can help remove dirt and reduce pathogens from a surface, it can also miss up to 50% of germs on surfaces.
”Disinfectants need time to kill or inactivate the pathogens they contact,” said Walowski. “Without giving disinfectants the proper dwell time, the effective rate may be reduced. Additionally, not all disinfectants can kill SARS-CoV-2. In the U.S., only products found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list, like those used by Ambius, have been approved for use against SARS-CoV-2.”
4. Enforce social distancing with plants, modular partitions, and green wall dividers
Tenants will seek visual cues that the location is safe and improvements have been made facility-wide. Interiorscaping is the perfect opportunity to create a visually stunning and socially distanced design by infusing the space with natural elements to bring the outdoors inside.
“Plants, modular partitions, and green wall dividers are functional and versatile,” said Walowski. “In addition to social distancing, plants provide many workplace benefits. Studies show that the presence of plants helps to reduce the number of sick days and helps employees view their workplace more positively.”
5. Implement a company-specific hygiene protocol and measure progress through third party assessments
COVID-19 has drastically impacted how businesses operate. As managers work to reopen, it’s important to understand new health and safety regulations. For multi-location facilities, it can be difficult to feel confident in the proper execution of health and safety protocols across all locations.
Health and safety evaluations have been utilized in some industries for decades to ensure all quality, safety and public health guidelines are met. This same process can be used in any business to reinforce proper COVID-19 protocols, frontline preparedness and issue resolution capabilities. Some of the most common items for evaluation and coaching include: following local health department guidance, wellness policies, social distancing measures, hand hygiene, face masks and PPE, and COVID-19 exposure-response.
“Third-party assessment firms can provide a corporation with an unbiased evaluation while offering insight into industry best practices,” said Walowski. “This objective feedback and insider knowledge can be used to train staff more effectively while also providing peace of mind that a consistent brand experience has been executed across all locations.”
We’re here to help you plan for whatever challenges come your way. To learn more about air and hand hygiene as well as additional ways to create smarter, healthier spaces, visit our website.