Most companies now work in a hybrid model, where more and more workers return to the office – at least part-time. But as fall is approaching with the rising number of COVID patients, facility managers will soon need to take precautions in order to create a safe work environment…again.
It is time to make moves to protect employees and thus productivity for fall, when – after the summer vacation – many will return to the offices, and the new wave of the pandemic is expected to hit. Fmbusiness.hu referring to facilitiesnet.com lists some safety measures FMs should consider to reduce the impact.
Take a deep breath and…
Filter the air
Because COVID-19 and other diseases like influenza are transmitted through air, clean, fresh air in the offices is a must. Besides frequently opening windows to introduce outdoor air, investing in air sanitizing systems seems reasonable to reduce the concentration of particles indoors. In small rooms and offices, a single-direction airflow that constantly brings fresh air into a room can be maintained by placing low exhaust vents. In general, the more fresh air you can introduce into (and exhaust out of) a room, the more you dilute the concentration of particles within that space – facilitiesnet.com points out.
Air filtration is also of key importance. HEPA filtration systems can aid in decontaminating air from within HVAC systems. MERV 13 filters with MERV 8 pre-filters can also be used alone or in conjunction with HEPA filters as they reduce the small particles that carry the COVID-19 virus.
Use UV-C Light
All ultraviolet (UV) light spectrums have an antimicrobial effect, killing both viruses and bacteria, but UV-C is the most effective one. In an office setting, UV-C is perfect to clean conference rooms between meetings or staff lounge and lunch areas overnight. Depending on the intensity of the lights, a room can be sterilized in 25 to 60 minutes. UV-C lamps can also be concealed directly within HVAC ductwork and air handlers to sterilize air before it’s introduced into occupied spaces.
However, UV-C light can also cause eye irritation and skin burns, so it’s not suitable for use while a space is occupied.
Introduce bipolar ionization
Bipolar ionization is an air-cleaning technology that works by producing positively and negatively charged oxygen ions that then interact with and catalyze oxidation and degradation in bacteria, mold cells and viruses. As the charges of the particles naturally group together into heavier clusters, they are more likely to be caught by filters or fall faster out of the air and onto surfaces where they can be cleaned.
Cleaning solutions, resistant surfaces
Hard, non-porous surfaces, such as plastic laminates and simulated stone are preferable as office surfaces since they stand up to frequent cleanings with harsh cleaning and bleach agents. Porous materials like wood provide a microscopic environment for bacteria to grow and multiply, especially as finishing coats break down over time or from regular exposure to harsh cleaning agents. Non-woven fabrics such as vinyl, silicone, and polyurethane that are cleanable with bleach and manufactured with a moisture barrier are good textile options due to their durability.
Antimicrobial and nonporous materials should be incorporated in restrooms, especially on door hardware and high-touch plumbing fixtures. Motion-activated or hands-free applications should also be installed on soap and hand sanitiser dispensers, paper towel dispensers, door-openers and kick plates.
Touchless toilets are another automatic fixture that should be approached with caution. The addition of automation and sensors to an otherwise simple and straightforward plumbing system may create unnecessary long-term maintenance issues. Consider installing foot-pedals to flush toilets, instead – experts recommend.
For lobbies consider reducing the size of these spaces or eliminating them altogether in favour of digital or mobile check-in services so visitors can enter and go straight to their destination. A receptionist can still be present and assist visitors when needed, but they wouldn’t interact closely or for long periods of time with guests.
Circulation patterns should be identified and clearly marked so that even people who are unfamiliar with the office layout can navigate it intuitively.
Flexible furnishing for quick changes
Consider incorporating modular furnishings that can be easily modified or rearranged by facility managers or even by building users. This can aid in changing the office layout to support social distancing measures quickly, without the need for outside vendors or general contractors.