August 26, 2020
Whether you go back to your office space now, or 6 months from now, there’s a chance we’ll still be battling it out with COVID-19. We’re focusing on how we can help our clients open up their spaces and putting routines in place that make it a safe place to collaborate with minimized risk of encountering an outbreak.
While this is “virgin territory” for all of us, infectious disease experts say that cleaning and disinfecting, combined with masks and regular hand-washing, should make offices safe.
What you’ll find in this article:
- Improved cleaning guidelines from the CDC
- Steps to take if there’s an outbreak in your office
- Alternatives cleaning methods
Standard Cleaning Guidelines
Believe it or not, there is a right way to clean off the desks in your office. The CDC provides an in-depth guide to disinfecting office space and lists the most effective supplies in killing the coronavirus. Here’s a shortlist.
- Be consistent in cleaning and disinfecting your office. Even if you have a professional cleaning service attending to your space, require everyone to clean equipment, workstations, and surfaces every day or several times a week.
- Wear gloves and protective gear when you’re using cleaning supplies, sanitizing or vacuuming your office and make sure there’s adequate ventilation in the space.
- Pay special attention to high touch surfaces: Tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc.
- Use EPA-registered household disinfectants.
- Wait until after-hours if possible. Avoid bringing harsh chemicals or aerosol sprays into your space with people in the room – you could irritate their eyes, throat, or trigger asthmatic reactions.
- Leave disinfectants on surfaces for the recommended amount of time – it varies from one second to up to five minutes before some disinfects are fully effective. The CDC has a helpful database here to look up the products you’re using.
- Clean soft surfaces like sofas, chairs, and carpets with disinfectants safe for fabrics then vacuum as usual.
- Check air ventilation and upgrade filters to improve air quality in the building. Focus on the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), a number from 1 and 16 that is relative to an air filter’s efficiency based on particle size. The recommended value is MERV 13 for office buildings, MERV 14 for medical facilities.
Outbreak Cleaning Guidelines
- Close off areas where the infected person or people work. The CDC states, “Companies do not necessarily need to close operations if they can close off affected areas.”
- Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
- Wait 24 hours before you clean or disinfect. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
- Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines.
- Vacuum the space with a HEPA-filter vacuum. Don’t vacuum with other employees in the space, it could create spread.
- Temporarily turn off in-room, window-mounted, or on-wall recirculation HVAC to avoid contamination of the HVAC units, but don’t deactivate central HVAC systems.
Additions and Alternatives
While keeping your office clean on a regular basis, it’s important to also enforce handwashing and sanitization for anyone entering your space.
And if you can’t find Lysol sprays or heavy duty cleaners available, UC San Diego Health suggests these common cleaners as viable alternatives:
- Soap and water
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% percent alcohol
- Bleach solutions and bleach-based cleaners
- Hydrogen peroxide and hydrogen-peroxide based cleaners
While the CDC doesn’t back alternatives to EPA-registered cleaning products, there are innovative ways to clean spaces that can be used in conjunction with best practices.
- UVD-light robots
- Ultrasonic devices
- LED-light disinfection devices
- Sanitizing tunnels (this is not recommended by the CDC as it can cause irritation or damage to skin, eyes, throat or trigger respiratory reactions).