How To Make Shared Spaces Healthier
“By packing people in more densely than conventional offices, co-working is expected to reduce overall office demand in the country as much as 3 percent by 2030, in an industry accustomed to growth, a recent report by Green Street said.”
This quote is from a recent “L.A. Times” article. The increased usage of shared spaces and “packing people” into offices is an important factor that affects employees’ well-being. This is especially relevant when you consider that 69 percent of working Americans don’t take sick days because they do not want to miss a day of work. This puts the well-being of other employees in peril.
It is a common practice to use open workspaces where many people may use the same surfaces and objects throughout the day. Companies like WeWork build their entire business model around providing on demand shared spaces for working groups and individuals. While this can be great for collaboration, it increases the chances of spreading infection.
Attention to these issues is even more imperative during the cold/flu season. Studies show that lost productivity due to health-related reasons costs employers about $225.8 billion per year, or $1,685 per employee per year.
Property managers and cleaning professionals can improve the health of the indoor environment and reduce absenteeism by teaming up.
It is a well-known fact that restrooms are being disinfected daily. However, other shared spaces like conference rooms, offices, and kitchens are simply being dusted. As a result, the toilet seat is often the cleanest surface in the building.
Here are some simple, but specific steps to make shared spaces healthier:
1. Increase the frequency and scope of your cleaning: A dusting/cleaning schedule for high use spaces might warrant a shift from once daily to multiple times, depending on traffic and time of the year. Additionally, cleaning scope of work should always include the cleaning of refrigerators, microwaves, and other kitchen appliances.
2. Add sanitizing and disinfecting kits to your spaces: Placement of these kits throughout the working areas requires a little thought and maintenance. It is crucial that hand sanitizers are strategically placed in high-traffic areas to maximize their effectiveness. Kits with wipes and hand sanitizers in conference rooms, kitchens and at individual desks serve as reminders that ensuring a healthy workplace is in everyone’s hands (pun intended.)
3. Sanitizing kits in restrooms isn’t a good idea: Don’t make the mistake of placing sanitizers inside the restrooms. Hand sanitizers should never replace traditional hand washing. However, it is always a good idea to place hand sanitizers right outside the bathroom. This eliminates the need to use an additional paper towel to open the door when exiting.
4. Flu season is the worst: When the flu season is active, it is always a good practice to incorporate disinfecting of office and kitchen surfaces. This temporary increase in labor and material expense is proven to reduce the spread of the flu virus. The average organization’s loss from sick days is likely a much greater expense than the cost of a thoughtful, thorough cleaning solution.
5. There are always new technologies to help: One example is electrostatic spraying technology. Handheld or backpack machines spray chemicals that can adhere to hard-to-reach areas such as the underside and backside of surfaces. The technology is growing in popularity and will likely be a useful disinfecting tool in the coming years. The cleaning industry is constantly advancing and there are new tools that help reduce time and associated labor costs.
It is essential that industry professionals educate their customers on the impact of a healthy workspace and how this contributes to productivity and the mitigation of lost revenue due to absenteeism.
Laurie Sewell is president and CEO of Servicon, a Culver City-based provider of maintenance services to Fortune 500 companies in the aerospace, hi-tech, commercial real estate, and healthcare industries. She has held positions on international, advisory and editorial Boards in her industry and was a stakeholder in the development of the GS-42 Green Seal standard.