We give facilities managers the lowdown on keeping offices clean and well-ventilated to mitigate against seasonal viruses
In a recent blog, we looked at how hospitals must cope with seasonal viruses at this time of year. They need to protect the most vulnerable in society from infection. But of course, it’s not just healthcare facilities that need to mitigate against the effects of seasonal viruses on their operations. For offices across the UK, it’s vital to protect staff, contractors, and visitors from infection. And for facilities managers, keeping offices clean to help restrict the spread of viruses (and other pathogens) presents a particular headache. In this blog, we provide five specialist cleaning tips for keeping offices free from seasonal viruses.
The picture for seasonal viruses in the UK this year
Flu season came early this year. About five million people in the UK catch flu each year, usually from December through to May. But UK Health Security Agency data showed a sharp rise in flu infections from the end of October 2022. Factor in continued Covid-19 infections, RSV, and other viruses, and you have a picture of widespread viral infections in the community. And of course, this winter there has also been a particularly problematic strain of streptococcal bacteria prevalent across society too.
Facilities managers should be concerned about this because British businesses have experienced mass sickness-related staff absences. People are also now working more frequently in the office compared to the past couple of years, which has increased their risk of catching a viral infection. This means that employers and clients are demanding that facilities managers do as much as possible to maintain hygienic working environments.
Working together to tackle seasonal viruses through office cleaning
Here are five top tips that REACT deploys in our specialist cleaning offer for FM companies. The first four are actions that we take during our office cleaning assignments, and the final one covers advice that we offer to all our clients.
1. Focus on frequent touch points
Your resources may not allow you to cover every nook and cranny of the facilities you manage. This will depend on the size of its rooms and your budget, which of course are variables outside your control. It’s important, then, that you focus on the areas and rooms that people use most, and the surfaces within those places that they touch the most. These will be where they are most likely to pick up the most infectious viruses and bacteria.
There’s no special science to identifying these places: you can figure it out by basic deduction. And we make sure our cleaning operatives apply this common sense approach. Door handles, of course, will always harbour lots of pathogens, as will light switches and toilet handles. And don’t forget the pieces of equipment like keyboards and computer mice that staff use throughout the day as well. This is particularly relevant where staff are hotdesking, as in some cases viruses and bacteria can linger on surfaces for hours or days.
2. Clean in two steps
Many organisations will clean their facilities with a simple cleaning fluid, such as soapy water. That works well during the summer and for households used by a small number of people. In the winter, though, when people are at higher risk of infection, the job requires a more comprehensive method.
The best strategy is to approach office cleaning in two steps. It’s something that is second nature to us here at REACT. First, we remove bacteria and dust with a neutral cleaning solution, like soapy water. Once this is done, we’ll clean the key areas again with a strong virucidal disinfectant. This will ensure that even the hardiest viruses are cleared from the facility.
3. Clean at regular intervals
You can achieve an even cleaner facility by encouraging staff to implement their own measures. They could wipe down door handles once a day with anti-viral wipes or use disinfectant after going to toilets.
You should also schedule deep cleans conducted by professional cleaning companies such as REACT, as we have the skills and access to equipment. We’ll thoroughly remove traces of all pathogens, and work this into your regular monthly cleaning routines. This will make sure that every surface is cleaned at least once a month, even if your resources cannot cover them every day or week.
4. Allow fresh air into office facilities
One of the reasons people catch more illnesses in winter is because they close doors and windows to stay warm. This prevents the circulation of fresh air from outside. Some might assume that this would prevent the entry of pathogens. But they’re already inside, and this warm environment provides the perfect harbour for them to breed in.
People working in your facility might want to keep windows and doors closed during working hours. While we’re cleaning office facilities, we use this time to let in some fresh air where possible. This is known to reduce the chance of people catching an infection in the room by as much as 80%.
5. Run ventilation systems before the day starts
Ventilation systems are turned off outside working hours to reduce energy consumption. This means that a lot of air can become trapped in the systems while turned off. This stagnant air can become a harbour for viruses and bacteria, which are then pumped back into the facility once you switch the system on again.
As we advise all our FM clients, it’s best to turn the ventilation systems on an hour before staff begin arriving at the facility to prevent this. The ventilation system will be circulating clean air by the time they arrive, and you'll still have conserved energy by turning the system off outside working hours.
Business leaders will be keen to mitigate the impact of seasonal viruses on their workforces throughout the winter and into March. Facilities managers can do their part by following these tips to create a safe and hygienic working environment. We’re always on hand to provide the specialist cleaning, and we can provide advice on best practice when it comes to ventilation too.
To find out more about REACT Specialist Cleaning and our work with FM companies to combat seasonal viruses in the office, contact one of the team today.
Post by Shaun D. Doak
Shaun is the CEO of REACT Group plc., a business dedicated to specialist cleaning, hygiene, and decontamination. He is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our company’s clients receives the highest possible level of service. An expert in HVAC and commercial and industrial cleaning methodologies, Shaun has extensive experience in the facilities management and renewable services sector.