It may seem like a lifetime away, but just seven months ago, most of us were notified by HR to pack up our things and work from home. The notice was abrupt, serious, and completely unclear of when we would return to the normalcy of office life. If we ever do.
The COVID-19 pandemic sent the entire world into a whirlwind. In some parts of the world, people were confined to their homes for extended periods, with only emergencies being a valid reason to leave. Closer to home, businesses shut down, offices closed their doors, and restaurants and grocery stores essentially became drive-thrus. But gone are the days of destitute shelves, free from a single bottle of hand sanitizer and roll of toilet paper. While some states continue to keep places of entertainment closed, or are transitioning back to tighter restrictions, offices in every state across the country are back in business.
Returning to work may be a step back to normalcy, but it isn’t a full green light to forgo all COVID-19 precautions and tackle your workday pre-pandemic style. In fact, returning to the workplace may mean you need to take moreprecautions than you did at home. In the comfort of your own home, your biggest worry may be the mess your kids (or significant other) make and cleaning it up before hopping on a Zoom call. But back in the office, the desk you’ve been missing for months is ridden with germs. According to a 2018 study, the average office desk is home to 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. COVID-19 aside, dirty office spaces are a significant health hazard — one that is easily amended and prevented.
To help you prepare to return to the workplace safely, we’ll outline the top five ways to keep your office space sanitary and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep the tips handy, because even after the pandemic-panic subsides, keeping your workspace clean and tidy can help to make sure you don’t have to dig into those sick days.
- Keep Hand Sanitizer Handy
Since the start of the pandemic, health professionals worldwide have pressed one thing: basic hygiene. Washing your hands for the proper 20 seconds can prevent hundreds of germs from entering your system, and does wonders for avoiding deadly viruses like COVID-19. But for those without a sink nearby or the time (and patience) to visit the bathroom after touching every surface, hand sanitizer is an adequate alternative.
Now that shelves are restocked with hand sanitizer, grab a few bottles of varying volumes to keep on you and at your desk at all times. Keep a small, portable hand sanitizer in your pocket, in your purse or briefcase, or even on your keys. When you have it easily accessible, you won’t have to wait until you return to your desk or make a stop in the restroom to clean your hands after you’ve walked through a few doors or shook someone’s hand in the hall. And whenever you start to think sanitizing your hands after touching every surface is overkill, remember that a single doorknob has the power to spread viruses through half an office building in just a few hours.
Having a small, portable bottle in your bag is one thing, but be sure also to stock your desktop with a larger one. Even if you have a private office all to yourself, the mouse, keyboard, desk chair, and even tape dispenser you use can carry thousands of germs that can easily make you sick. Every so often, make sure to take a break to sanitize your hands — especially if you have a bad habit of touching your face.
- Stock Up On Clorox Wipes
Sanitizing your hands every hour on the hour can quickly get irritating — both for your psyche and your skin. To remedy the issue, keep a pack of Clorox wipes nearby, and make sure to wipe down your office space each morning upon arrival, during any breaks, and before you leave for the night. If you’re the only one in your office, consistently wiping down surfaces can prevent the buildup of bacteria and dust. But if you have frequent office visitors or share spaces with a coworker, Clorox wipes can rid surfaces of any germs expelled during breathing, talking, and, of course, touching. Just because you can’t see the germs on your desk doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Considering they are invisible, it can be challenging to know if you’ve covered every surface. Create a cleaning routine in which you wipe down your desk and accessories in order. If you have numerous accessories on your desktop, start by gathering them on the side and wipe down your desk. Then, pick up each accessory and wipe it down thoroughly; that means every side, including the bottom. As you move through each accessory, place them back in their original, now sanitized, location. Once you’ve replaced your last piece, wipe down the surface on which you gathered them, and rest assured you’ve done a thorough job.
- Take Meetings Virtually
COVID-19 has transformed the working world and catapulted us into a realm where everything can be done virtually. Remote work has increased drastically, with numerous companies making the switch permanent. Working from home may come with benefits, but ever since face-to-face interactions have been labeled as dangerous, the value has only been magnified. However, until we are clear to resume life as usual (or the “new normal”), employers and employees should heed health professionals’ warnings and do as many tasks as possible in a social-distanced fashion.
As you re-enter the office space, don’t forget the convenience and safety virtual meetings bring. Your coworker may be down the hall, but the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses increases with proximity. Instead of calling group meetings in the conference room, send out a virtual invite, and take the meeting from the safety and comfort of your own office. And in the event an in-person meeting is mandatory, be sure to wear your mask (covering your mouth and your nose) and stay as far apart as possible.
- Clean Consistently Throughout the Day
Washing your hands once a day doesn’t do anything to prevent the spread of germs, and neither does cleaning your desk once and calling it a day. Be sure to use the Clorox wipes you have at your desk numerous times a day. If possible, remember to wipe down all of the surfaces you come into contact with right when you get to the office in the morning. And on your lunch break, save time to wipe down the surfaces again before you start eating. After you’re done, only clean up any messes you’ve made. Then, before you head home for the day, give your desk and all other surfaces around your office space another wipe down. Staying on top of cleanliness gives germs less time to multiple, spread onto other surfaces, or enter your system.
- Minimize Employee Foot Traffic
Whether you were the social butterfly around the office before the pandemic, or have also wanted an excuse to put up a “DO NOT ENTER” sign, now is the time to limit the number of people coming in your office space. Once you’ve returned to work, don’t be afraid to put a sign on your door, asking coworkers to contact you virtually before entering. Chances are, the question (or gossip) they came to talk to you about can be discussed over email or instant messaging platform. And in the event it’s a more serious matter that requires a face-to-face chat, they can virtually schedule a good time to meet before just barging in.
Instructing employees to reach out virtually eliminates unnecessary exposure and provides an opportunity to set precautions before sitting down in the same room. When an employee or employer requests an in-person meeting, instruct everyone you’re meeting with to wear a mask at all times when in your office and have hand sanitizer ready for them upon entrance. Depending on your line of work, it may not be possible to forgo all interactions entirely, but minimizing foot traffic is a step in the right direction.
Creating a Workspace Conducive to Safety and Success
They say a clear space creates a clear mind, and when it comes to your office space, they’re not wrong. In the midst of a pandemic, keeping your workspace clear and clean is more than just staying organized. It’s about wiping down surfaces, disinfecting the things you touch the most, and being mindful of others around you. Keep hand sanitizer near you at all times, and limit the number of close interactions with others. When in-person meetings are necessary, wear a mask, disinfect your hands, and kindly ask others to do the same. Additionally, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, or even the common cold, stay home to reduce the chances of spreading germs to friends and colleagues. Staying on top of cleanliness will not only rid your mind of COVID-19 worries but can also boost your productivity.
At Nexus Workspaces, we’re all about increased productivity, interconnectedness, and networking — and doing it all safely. Our alternative office spaces are located across Florida for optimal access and designed with you in mind. Whether your business is just getting started or is years in the making, our office spaces and accommodations can help you reach your goals. Visit us online or at one of our locations to see how we make a difference in the way people work.