Employees across the country have a lot of questions about how safe their work environment will be when they return to the office or even to the classroom. Their concerns are valid, and for a good reason. Some businesses have recently reopened, only to have to shut back down again due to employees or customers testing positive for COVID-19. Other businesses and schools have not yet reopened because they have either been ordered to remain closed or their leadership does not yet feel ready for people to safely return in person.
Undeniably, business owners and schools across the country are walking a fine line as they prepare to reopen their locations, balancing the need to protect their economic viability with the need to protect everyone’s health and safety. Essential businesses that have remained open during COVID-19 have also been navigating this storm while continuing to face a variety of headwinds.
According to a recent study from BlankRome, businesses in the U.S. are grossly unprepared to bring back their employees. Surprisingly, nearly three-quarters of businesses from coast to coast do not yet have a return-to-work strategy.
As many business and school leaders are in the midst of planning for what their reopening will entail, they have been mired down in a number of operational issues, including: deciding which employees should return to the office and when, determining how many employees will continue to work remotely, and whether to allow third parties to access worksites; providing masks, hand sanitizer and other protective gear for employees and visitors; conducting temperature, wellness checks and testing of employees and visitors; developing social distancing protocols; enforcing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and updating COVID-19 communication plans.
According to the CDC, business must take a holistic approach to safeguard their workforce’s wellness. While good personal hygiene, hand washing, social distancing and the use of masks and other personal protective equipment are important components to help protect everyone’s health and safety, there is no replacement for regularly cleaning and thoroughly disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
A recent survey from OpenWorks found that, while many people indicate that their highest priority for their workplace is cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces as well as restrooms and kitchens, only three-in-five companies saw the need to increase the frequency of their disinfecting efforts. An overwhelming 75% of business leaders said they did not plan on, or were not sure about, adding additional daily, or even weekly, disinfection to their cleaning routines. This is contrary to the CDC’s recommendation that frequently-touched surfaces and objects – like door handles, desks, phones, light switches, and faucets – be cleaned and disinfected at least daily, and that certain public-space surfaces and objects – like shopping carts and point of sale keypads –be cleaned and disinfected before each use.
It is cause for alarm that some employers do not plan on increasing the frequency of their disinfecting efforts to help reduce the spread of germs. It is equally concerning to see some businesses equipping their employees, who have not been properly trained, with DIY disinfectants and sanitizers. This is not only ineffective but could prove to be dangerous.
Cleaning and disinfecting are essential services best delivered by experienced professionals who follow CDC guidelines and use EPA-approved products. Commercial cleaning crews are professionally trained and certified to adhere to strict protocols that meet regulatory standards, and they wear personal protective equipment to minimize their own risk.
As a national commercial cleaning provider, OpenWorks cleans and disinfects thousands of healthcare facilities, schools, and businesses across the country, and the need for our services continues to increase. We can say with great authority that the impact of this pandemic on the workplace is very real; deciding not to increase your cleaning and disinfecting efforts could be the gateway to a host of unknown repercussions.
Reducing the spread of highly-infectious diseases – including COVID-19, the flu, and other contagious respiratory illnesses – is a necessity that should not be overlooked in your reopening plan. Regular and ongoing surface cleaning, disinfection and sterilization, when professionally performed by experts, helps to maintain the safest and most sanitary, germ-free conditions possible.
Ramping up not just cleaning but also disinfection as part of your reopening strategy will not only build trust and confidence among your customers, it will ensure a healthy, safe, and productive environment for your employees and students. Afterall, more than half of employees now expect their workplace to be disinfected daily, and more than one-third of employees now expect their workplace to be disinfected at least weekly.
People across the country are concerned about what kind of environment they will return to. Smart business leaders are doing the right thing by enlisting the help of outside, experienced professionals to do both the cleaning and disinfecting that they have been trained and certified to do.
Liz Caracciolo is Chief Operating Officer of OpenWorks, a national commercial cleaning and facility services provider that helps all kinds of facilities across the country manage their cleaning and disinfecting efforts and reduce the spread of germs.