Guest Post by Kelly Walowski, Global Account Consultant, Ambius

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to revamp their hygiene policies. Tenants will be more aware of health and safety as they re-enter the workplace, making it critical for companies to display a new and improved commitment to creating smarter, healthier working environments.

Five ways to create smarter, healthier spaces during and after the pandemic include:

1.     Focus on indoor air quality

Tenants are spending more time indoors, increasing the risk of exposure to a range of contaminants, microbes, allergens, and pollutants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to air pollutants indicates that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times higher than outdoor levels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines in February 2021 for building owners and managers to aid in creating safe workplaces. Along with a general inspection for HVAC functionality, the CDC recommends implementing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) units to increase air filtration as much as possible.

Not just any air filtration system will provide the proper purification. The CDC recommends a 4-stage filtration process that includes HEPA13 and carbon filters. Knowing and understanding which ventilation improvements can best serve the needs of tenants is the first step to creating a smarter, healthier space.

2.     Create a hand hygiene culture

Whether or not a person washes their hands well or even on a regular basis is up to the individual. Placing mobile hand hygiene units around the facility gives a visual cue that “right now” is a great time to sanitize.

Placing hand hygiene dispensers in “high traffic” areas and throughout the entire facility can significantly reduce the risk of spread. High traffic areas include:

  • Break rooms
  • Common areas
  • Communal work areas
  • Elevator banks
  • Kitchens
  • Meeting rooms
  • Reception areas and lobbies
  • Restrooms

3.     Take disinfection beyond a simple “wipe-down” method

High traffic areas should also receive additional disinfection treatments to control the spread of germs. While traditional spray and wipe-down cleaning methods can help remove dirt and reduce pathogens from a surface, it can also miss up to 50% of germs on surfaces.

Disinfectants need time to kill or inactivate the pathogens they contact. Without giving disinfectants the proper dwell time, the effective rate may be reduced. Additionally, not all disinfectants can kill SARS-CoV-2. In the U.S., only products found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list have been approved for use against SARS-CoV-2.

4.     Enforce social distancing with plants, modular partitions and green wall dividers

Tenants will seek visual cues that the location is safe, and improvements have been made facility wide. Interiorscaping is the perfect opportunity to create a visually stunning and socially distanced design by infusing the space with natural elements to bring the outdoors inside.

Plants, modular partitions and green wall dividers are functional and versatile. In addition to social distancing, plants provide many workplace benefits. Studies show that the presence of plants helps to reduce the number of sick days and helps employees view their workplace more positively.

5.     Implement a company-specific hygiene protocol and measure progress through third party assessments

COVID-19 has drastically impacted how businesses operate. As managers work to reopen, it’s important to understand new health and safety regulations. For multi-location facilities, it can be difficult to feel confident in the proper execution of health and safety protocols across all locations.

Health and safety evaluations have been utilized in other industries for decades to ensure all quality, safety and public health guidelines are met. This same process can be used in any business to reinforce proper COVID-19 protocols, frontline preparedness, and issue resolution capabilities. Some of the most common items for evaluation and coaching include following local health department guidance, wellness policies, social distancing measures, hand hygiene, face masks and PPE and COVID-19 exposure-response.

Third party assessment firms can provide a corporation with an unbiased evaluation while offering insight into industry best practices. This objective feedback and insider knowledge can be used to train staff more effectively while also providing peace of mind that a consistent brand experience has been executed across all locations.

Kelly Walowski is Global Account Consultant for Ambius, an industry leader in creating smarter, healthier spaces.