By Michelle Witherby, COO + Design Director at T-Concepts Solutions
Roughly 90% of our lives are spent indoors¹, and the past few years have highlighted how our well-being is directly affected by our physical surroundings. The office environment, especially, is different now than ever before.
We are in an age of shared workspaces. Spaces may be smaller due to more people working remotely, and workspaces may be shared if employees are on hybrid schedules. It is more important now than to be diligent about keeping these areas clean. Not just decluttered. Not just with the trash thrown away. And, further beyond a general clean sweep. These are public spaces, typically high-traffic areas. Offices and workspaces require an extra step to disinfect to ensure that the space is safe for you and the next person coming in to work.
Here are five tips for maintaining a cleaner, healthier work environment for everyone.
Avoid Eating At Your Desk
While “desk dining” is convenient, it truly is a bad habit. It can leave behind a mess of crumbs and stickiness all over the work area. A designated area where employees can eat minimizes desktop dirt while providing co-workers with a gathering place to relax. As a bonus, a designated eating spot is great for workplace culture and employee well-being.
Half-empty coffee cups and water bottles are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria and should be kept away from work areas as well. Think of how easily beverages can be knocked over and spilled onto keyboards, papers, and office supplies.
Dirt At Your Fingertips
Here’s a scary thought, researchers at the University of Arizona found that the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.² From E. coli to Staphylococcus aureus, office supplies, the desk surface, and the cracks and crevices of keyboards are ideal for harboring bacteria from hands that have touched everything throughout the day. Desktop bacteria come from the skin, mouth, and nasal passages, so it is especially important that shared workspaces are cleaned and disinfected regularly after use.
A good rule of thumb is to clean your keyboard or laptop weekly; more often if it is a shared computer. Here’s a quick overview of how to clean your keyboard. For more detailed instructions, check out The Spruce.³
· Unplug it, turn it over to the trash bin, and shake the loose dirt out.
· Use a soft-bristled brush to dislodge leftover debris.
· Use compressed air with the straw attachment to blow out tight spaces. (Do not insert straw directly under keys.)
· Use a disinfecting wipe for electronics or a lint-free microfiber cloth lightly dampened with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to clean the keyboard.
· Clean peripherals such as a mouse, trackpad, and earbuds.
Note: Do not use chlorine bleach nor pour or spray disinfectant directly onto the keyboard.
Handle With Care
From the moment you step into the office, your hands touch everything that someone else has touched. Bacteria can multiply quickly on high-touch surfaces such as door handles, light switches, desks or tables, and keyboards. Regular cleaning using a disinfectant to wipe down commonly touched hard surfaces is a good way to stay ahead of spreading germs and maintain a healthy work environment.
Another effective preventive measure is to install products that are made with built-in antimicrobial technology. Building materials enhanced with antimicrobial technologies protect against mold growth, remain cleaner between cleanings, and meet building specifications. Antimicrobial agents are available for use in plastics and polymers, paints and coatings, textiles, ceramics, metals, and more.
Designers can get ahead of sharing germs in the office simply by installing door handles with built-in antimicrobial product protection that inhibits the growth and reproduction of odor, stain, and degradation-causing bacteria. Unlike disinfectants, which provide limited residual activity, integrated antimicrobial technology helps to fight against the growth and survival of such bacteria on surfaces of a treated product throughout its expected lifecycle. T-Concepts Solutions, a Miami-based commercial hardware manufacturer, has partnered with Microban a global leader in EPA-registered antimicrobial technology. This science-backed technology has been integrated into the exterior finish coating of their door handle hardware, creating the flag-ship product line under TCS’ new division, called CareSecure.
Maximize Janitorial Services With Smart Sensors
Get better results using both! Just as sensor technology tracks the energy use of appliances, automatic window shades take advantage of daylighting, or wrist-worn monitors track personal health, cleaning services can be streamlined with sensor technology to be more effective.
Web-based applications can integrate real-time workplace data to determine exactly where and when to clean.4 This technology avoids wasting time and money cleaning rarely-used workspaces so that janitorial teams can focus on high-touch areas.
Wireless sensors such as “peel-and-stick pads” placed on walls, ceilings, and doors help track the number of people using a workspace, as well as movement within the office. Air-quality sensors monitor indoor air quality, from room temperature and humidity to carbon dioxide, radon gas, and volatile organic chemicals (VOC) levels. Sensors can also be used to detect pooling or dripping liquids such as leaky pipes within the building’s infrastructure.
Select A Green Team
Thinking well into the future to ensure a clean and germ-free work environment as possible, many architects and builders consult “green” design teams. Through the specification and purchasing of verified sustainable products, designers or WELL Accredited Professionals can influence the market to move in a greener direction, directly improving human and ecological health. It is therefore crucial to select quality products and materials that live up to their sustainable claims.
WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) denotes expertise in the WELL Building Standard—a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring a building’s impact on the health and well-being of its occupants. WELL and LEED are complementary building standards and do not compete with one another. WELL builds on LEED, beginning where LEED ends.5
WELL integrates performance thresholds after the design/prescriptive green building work has been completed. Human behavior and resource optimization for wellness are also addressed.
WELL is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and well-being through the built environment. Early adopters include financial institutions, owner-occupied real estate, and also new construction that is doing LEED Platinum and wants to add on WELL.
Maintaining a clean, healthy work environment falls upon everyone’s shoulders. It can start with green design and the selection of building materials based on how they will impact human health as well as the sustainability of resources. Smart sensor technology can be utilized to help janitorial crews work more effectively with a focus on cleaning high-touch areas. Everyday objects such as door handles and light switches to building materials like paint and upholstery can be made with built-in antimicrobial technology, providing long-lasting protection against the spread of germs while providing an overall cleaner office environment. Finally, each and every employee can help maintain a healthier workspace—don’t eat or drink at the computer, throw away garbage, and wipe hard surfaces with a disinfectant before leaving. Here’s to good health!
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1. Joseph G. Allen and John D. Macomber, May 20, 2020, “We spend 90% of our time inside—why don’t we care that indoor air is so polluted? Maybe we should actually be wearing masks inside.”
2. Sarah Miller RN, Keris Krennhrubec, and Diana Zuckerman, PhD, National Center for Health Research, “Are There More Bacteria on Computer Keyboards Than Toilet Seats?”
3. Mary Marlowe Leverette, ”How to Clean a Keyboard,” updated 11/30/2020.
4. INFOGRID JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle IP,Inc.), 2022 PowerPoint Presentation, “Why Smart Sensors Belong in you Cleaning Program.”