How To Adapt To COVID-19 (Your Office Maintenance Questions Answered)

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At Eden, the safety and wellbeing of our clients, employees, service partners, and the communities we serve is our first priority. During these uncertain times, Eden’s client-facing teams continue to deliver services to our clients in 30 global markets. We are committed to supporting our clients with continued service excellence. Our teams are here to serve you and your built environments and help answer questions you may have. In the spirit of this partnership we wanted to share some insight on relevant questions: 

1. How long will we have to implement measures such as social distancing?  

No one knows for sure at this point. However, recent articles and health officials have suggested we might be over a year away from a vaccine and we could see phases of relaxation of measures in the coming months and reinstituting them as needed as cases rise again. This would suggest potential phases of employees coming back into the office and returning to isolating over time. It will be important to practice a regimen of proper cleaning through the phases with potential increases in the frequency of regular cleaning and disinfecting. This also suggests a more proactive (scheduled) vs. reactive (break/fix) approach to maintaining your locations.  

2. What could we do to maintain our locations today from decreased utilization to re-occupying?

Properly maintaining the condition of one’s properties can help ensure proper cost savings today and healthier properties in the future (before full re-utilization). Engaging a professional for a building health check can range from checking lighting or temperature to match hours of operations to cleaning regimens and having proper supplies and materials on hand. Eden can provide one time or regular checks, reports and action plans to support our clients.  

3. What should companies do when employees come back to the office?

OSHA recommends: “Develop policies and practices that distance employees from each other, customers and the general public. Consider practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees such as e-mail, websites, and teleconferences. Policies and practices that allow employees to work from home or to stagger their work shifts may be important as absenteeism rises.” 

Separately, you should consider starting to prepare your office now for when employees return to work. Some considerations/recommendations include:

  • Book your deep clean now –– everything from standard deep clean services to electrostatic cleaning
  • If you’ve paused your cleaning service, confirm your date to resume services to ensure you have a team ready to go –– we recommend starting at least 24 hours before returning to the office
  • Notify your lunch, plant care, and snack services when they should start services again
  • Plan a treat or welcome back celebration for your team’s first day back
  • Order any supplies for the office that were halted on ordering
  • If access information (alarm codes, door codes, etc.) has changed, be sure to notify employees and vendors 
  • Consider on-site temperature monitoring services
  • Disinfectant all equipment and laptops when employees return
  • Check HVAC filters and have them replaced
  • Install Air Movement/Purification devices in break rooms & conference rooms that are frequently used by employees
  • Confirm that wifi is up and running, no systems have powered down, and logins have not expired

4. Is disinfecting surfaces enough or should we consider increasing actual cleaning?

The risk of employee illnesses can be a higher price than increased cleaning. Not all disinfectants are effective at cleaning dirt and grime, but they are designed to kill pathogens and bacteria with 99.99% effectiveness. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces have been recommended by the CDC and should be done even if workplaces are less occupied with less frequent cleaning schedules. Recent studies have indicated the virus can live up to 3 days on certain surfaces that can be found in a work environment and can live for 3 hours as airborne.

5. Should we continue to have day porters wipe high trafficked surfaces during the day and broader cleaning in the evenings?

Yes, and provide disposable disinfectant wipes so that commonly used surfaces (e.g., door handles, work surfaces, keyboards, remote control) can be wiped down by employees before each use. In addition, identifying possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. OSHA has more information on how to protect workers from potential exposures to COVID-19.  

6. What are examples of best practices that other companies have implemented to-date?

  • Increased cleaning frequency (including disinfecting and deep cleaning)
  • Encouraging social distancing
  • Office access restrictions to non-employees or critical vendors servicing the space
  • Reductions in in-person meetings or limits on participants
  • Proactive maintenance programs
  • Changes in HR policies (e.g., sick leave, work from home, etc.)
  • Increased communication to employees (CDC provides free communication resources)

7. Should we stop all capital or improvement projects?

Capital or improvement projects tend to be scheduled during the least occupied periods so as to not disrupt employee productivity or operations. As facilities may be under-occupied today this provides an opportunity to complete projects that have been put on hold or stopped.   

8. Should we increase HVAC filter changes or clean air intake?

We have seen an increase in interest regarding UV lighting to help reduce biological growth and/or viruses in air conditioning/heating. While even HEPA filters will not restrict all viruses, many individuals increase the fresh air intake (the old statement: pollution solution is dilution).

Several air movement and ventilation technology devices have been proven to mitigate airborne pathogens and viruses if they have built-in UVC technology that kills the pathogen when exposed to the light. These devices can easily be installed in commercial ceiling grids based on the density of the user occupancy.

ASHRAE provides proactive guidance on operating and maintaining heating, air-conditioning, ventilating systems to help address coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) concerns. 

If you have any questions for us or if we can support you in any way, please don't hesitate to reach out.