Infections in office buildings are expensive problems. Absent employees, and employees who report to work sick (called presenteeism), cost the U.S. economy $227 billion each year because of lost productivity, according to the Integrated Benefits Institute. The common cold alone accounts for $20 billion of this figure.

BSCs can help break that number down specifically to individual clients. Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, estimates that each time a person has a cold, he or she costs the employer $280. When BSCs consider how many occupants get a cold, and how often, these numbers add up quickly. Since BSCs play a direct role in infection prevention, they could actually be saving their customers substantial dollar amounts each year.

This example only represents the common cold. BSCs can also play a role in preventing influenza, Norovirus and much more. In fact, 35 percent of C. diff cases are now considered community-acquired infections, meaning they occur outside of healthcare facilities.

Proper cleaning and disinfecting reduces the spread of viruses by 80 to 90 percent. BSCs should focus on commonly touched areas and disinfect them daily. Contractors can also provide disinfectant wipes so occupants can disinfect their personal spaces and items, especially if these areas are prohibited in the contract specs.

Since restrooms may be taxed, it’s important to also supply hand sanitizer. Setting up stations in common areas, such as lobbies and breakrooms, as well as frequently used collaborative spaces, will encourage use, especially by employees too busy to visit the restrooms to wash hands when needed.

When viruses are left unchecked, they spread rapidly. Dr. Gerba conducted a study by placing a bacterial virus on a lobby door push plate in an office building with 80 people. Four hours later, the virus was found on half of the workers’ hands and on 56 percent of the building surfaces.

However, when Dr. Gerba provided hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to half of the building occupants, the virus was only found on 10 percent of workers’ hands and 9 percent of surfaces after just four hours of intervention.

Dr. Gerba isn’t alone in his findings. A study conducted in the offices of Medical Mutual of Ohio gave a group of employees hand sanitizer for regular use — after sneezing and coughing, after contact with others who may be sick, before eating, and after using the restroom. After introducing hand sanitizers, absences dropped by nearly 15 percent. In addition, healthcare claims related to hand-hygiene preventable illnesses were lowered by almost 25 percent, saving the employer significant expenses.

An added benefit of providing hand sanitizer to clients is improved perception. In the aforementioned study, after giving hand sanitizer to occupants, there was a significant increase in employee perception that their company was concerned about the spread of illness in the workplace. And workers are truly concerned — more than half of office workers worry about getting infected from colleagues who come to work sick, according to the “Tork Office Report For 2016.”

Besides improving perception, hand sanitizer also boosted occupant morale. Just over 80 percent of Medical Mutual of Ohio employees listed having hand sanitizer at their desks as one of the top two amenities in the workplace, after participating in the study.

Just by offering a product, BSCs can help their customers improve worker morale and the overall impression of the employer.

As more facilities move to flexible and high-density layouts, BSCs need to talk to their customers about a robust infection prevention cleaning program. Otherwise, facility executives can expect to see a decline in productivity and an increase in expenses.

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Changing Office Spaces