Infection Prevention in the Modern Office

How Remote Workers Are Impacting the Jansan Industry

We’ve witnessed a number of changes in how people work; or possibly, we should say in where people work. In the late 1980s, the idea of telecommuting became very popular. Workers were allowed to work at home, and as long as assignments were delivered on time and there was no sacrifice in quality, employers gradually expanded the policy.

This idea further extended after the economic downturn in 2008. As companies stabilized their businesses, instead of hiring new personnel, many decided to contract out numerous office duties. As a result, a whole new workforce developed of people who worked at home, independently, and often for several different companies.

But then Yahoo made a surprise announcement in 2013 that turned things around. The company, which had traditionally let employees work just about anywhere at any time, banned what is also called “remote working.” According to a company memo sent to all Yahoo workers, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” and, “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”

Google, with offices not far from Yahoo, agreed. The company also decided it wanted as few workers as possible working at home. “There is something magical about sharing meals [in a company office],” says Patrick Pichette, Google’s chief financial officer. “There is something magical about spending the time together, about noodling on ideas, [and] about asking at the computer, ‘What do you think of this?’”

A Combined Approach

Since the Yahoo decision, a combination of telecommuting, remote working, and everyone working in an office has evolved. Referred to as hot desking or hoteling, it involves non-territorial offices and desk space that are open to just about anyone at any time. This allows at least some office workers to work at home or off site, but still provides offices and desk space in the main office, which they are encouraged to use as often as they like.

The Impact of this Approach on Cleaning

While this certainly is not true of everyone, typically when someone has been assigned a specific office or desk space that they own, they take better care of it. That is less of a concern when workers are hoteling, or using a space for an hour or a few hours, and then leaving, possibly never to use that space again.

Another concern is that no one necessarily uses the hot-desk space the same way. Some workers use shared office spaces for meetings or conference calls, computer work, or sales calls. Sometimes one person will work at the desk, sometimes many people will share the desk, and for some, these areas are ideal for eating lunch.

All of these issues can have a definite impact on the cleaning needs of these spaces, such as the types of cleaning solutions, products, and methods that are required. And, because cleaning workers likely will not know who or how the space was used each day, they have to assume the worst. This means the desk area and any other hot-desk workstations require detail cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfection after each and every visit.

How Facility and Office Managers Can Prepare

The first step cleaning workers should take to keep shared workspaces clean and healthy involves advising facility and office managers of what they should do. For instance, if there is a communal computer at a shared workspace, which is common, each worker should be asked to bring in his/her own mouse and keyboard. Mice and keyboards become germ carriers, making this step crucial. If possible, businesses should not provide a phone for these workspaces, because it can be a germ carrier, but if it is, cleaning workers must sanitize the phone after each visit.

Managers should also stock antibacterial wipes and encourage hot deskers to use them. In fact, because these are non-territorial work areas, businesses that use them should create and enforce some type of cleanup policy. While cleaning workers cannot control how well employees follow the program, at least it can help to encourage healthier areas.

Areas to Clean

We have already mentioned some of the high-touch areas that will need to be cleaned and sanitized/disinfected after each visit. Overall, this includes the entire desk, chairs (if vinyl or leather), and all touchable areas. Often, this is a two-step process: The area should be first cleaned with one product and then sanitized or disinfected with another.

Additionally, when the area is set up for shared conference call use, all electronic components, such as remote controls, cameras, or microphones also require cleaning and sanitizing/disinfection; assume these electronics have been used during the course of each day.

Advice for Cleaning Contractors

For cleaning contractors, if your client or a prospective client has a hoteling program in place, these areas are going to require significantly more time to maintain compared to normal use areas. If bidding on an office with a hoteling program in place, treat these areas separately in your bid. Explain to the customer that these areas will need more time that will impact your service charge.

Additionally, cleaning contractors can expect their supply costs to increase, especially if there are many people using the hot-desk space. For instance, sanitizers and disinfectants can be costly. Because this is a cost the contractor must usually shoulder, some ways to minimize these costs are to: purchase these products in bulk; use auto-dispensing systems to avoid waste; and look into group purchasing organizations, which have special discount pricing programs for their members.

Way Forward

Hot desking is expected to grow in the future in all kinds of businesses. Remote workers often find it to be the best of both worlds. This flexible setup allows them to work when and where they want, but also with the office staff on a regular basis.

For employers, it often means they can get by with a smaller, less costly office space. It also means fewer desks, chairs, and workstations to purchase.

For cleaning workers, it’s a growing reality. Expect to see hot desking in more types of facilities moving forward. Just realize hot-desk areas require more time, attention, and supplies than a traditional work area, and you can plan your charges accordingly.

Posted On March 8, 2016

Tobi Colbert

Director of Business Development and Member Services at the National Service Alliance (NSA)

Tobi Colbert is director of business development and member services at the National Service Alliance (NSA), a leading group purchasing organization for larger building service contractors and related businesses in the United States. She can be reached at [email protected].

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