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By Deborah Hetrick, SVP, Healthcare Technology Management
Are you planning on reopening or phasing in full occupancy for the first time since the pandemic? Many companies plan to bring employees back to the workplace in January. Be forewarned, there will likely be a rush to get facilities ready. Don’t become a victim of the adage, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.”
Facility managers face new challenges in creating healthier indoor environments. COVID-19 remains a threat, and now people fear the convergence between COVID-19 and other seasonal viruses. Nearly 60% of workers say safety is their top concern in the workplace, according to a survey of 1,000 workers by LinkedIn and Censuswide. Some employees will be required to return, and many say they are excited about coming back. Working remotely has advantages, but it poses problems for many: fear that lack of visibility will jeopardize careers, missing the social interaction that fosters morale and collaboration, and loss of productivity.
While some facility managers question the need for surface disinfection to prevent COVID-19 spread, employees and visitors will be laser-focused on germs in the air and on items frequently touched. The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses. Influenza A (H1N1) can live for hours or days on surfaces and can transfer easily to contaminate hands. Scientists are looking at the ramifications of the flu and COVID-19 occurring simultaneously. It’s wise to be prepared for that double threat, as well as other pathogens, such as c-Diff, staph, MRSA, VRE, and more.
Your cleaning program must include the level of disinfection and protection needed to maintain wellness and curb spread of pathogens. Service providers should be prepared to offer the proper staffing, supplies, and scope enhancement tailored to your space and its use, based on the most recent guidance from the CDC and OSHA, as well as government regulations. Reopening criteria has been varying greatly from state to state, and city to city, and many require daily cleaning logs. Including Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) enhancements in your plan has also become necessary for fostering occupant trust.
Being prepared is critical. Early in the pandemic, supplies ran out. The supply chain has caught up with current low occupancy rates, but when people go back, you can expect a rush on labor, program implementation, and supplies. Things to note:
- Retooling a factory to produce a new product (e.g., gloves or masks) can take 6-18 months. A spike in demand would not quickly be met with more supply.
- Nitrile gloves are not generally manufactured in the U.S. One supplier abroad holds 50% of the market share, and three of their production companies were shut down for labor violations.
- The availability of the janitorial recruiting pool as reentries ramp up is questionable.
- Your disinfection provider needs to have both regular suppliers and backup suppliers.
Having a visible cleaning program gives everyone peace of mind. People need to see the work being done and trust that the methods are sound. That, in turn, fosters faith in their employer and facility management. Visible signage will help you inform people of how to do their part, and it lets them know you care about their health and safety. If your business wants and needs employees to return to work, you must gain and maintain their trust. If you have a phased-in approach to bringing people back, the attitudes of those returning first will influence the confidence of the others. Act now for the best outcomes.
ABM EnhancedClean™ is a process for advanced cleaning and disinfection that includes certification, training, cleaning frequency, team staffing, and supply chain. Informed by experts in infectious disease and industrial hygiene, it was designed to give facilities executives a strategic approach to help keep people safe as they return to work. Leading employers in commercial real estate, manufacturing, technology, aviation, and education are implementing this level of service to help safeguard people and facilities. ABM has compiled insights and answers to some of the most pressing questions from facilities executives in a new eBook, now available for download.