Making Shared Workspaces Safe During the Pandemic

1st July 2020 |

Across Australia, employees must adhere to restrictions on public gatherings which differ between states and territory governments. However, policies concerning physical distancing, good hygiene, and cleaning and sanitation practices are in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

COVID-19 has changed life as we knew it. The whole world is facing a dramatic shift in the way businesses are run and workforces are managed.

Case in point: in South Korea, 94 out of 214 employees on one floor of a crowded call centre tested positive for COVID-19. A study found that 90 percent of the cases were clustered on one high-density portion of the floor, showing that the virus can be extremely contagious in such crowded office settings.

Resuming Office Life

For many organisations, moving to remote work has become the ideal solution. There are, however, some companies that depend on workers whose jobs cannot be carried out remotely, such as industrial manufacturers. Moreover, depending on where in Australia you live, there may be plans underway to reopen businesses soon, which means workers will be returning to their workplaces.

Employers are coming up with various solutions to limit the number of people gathered in office spaces at one time, such as scheduling workers to come in shifts, staggered arrival times, re-configuring office designs to allow for 1.5 metres or more between desks, and directing foot traffic.

Best Practices for Shared Workspaces

In some cases, sharing workspaces, such as office desks or truck cabs, between shifts is inevitable. Cleaning, whilst still an important component, is not enough by itself to stop the spread of infections in such scenarios since coronavirus can survive for a long time on certain surfaces. It must be coupled with sanitisation and/or disinfection for maximum effectiveness.

Below are some best practices that employers can follow to protect their employees and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  1. Implement policies to ensure cleaning and disinfecting before and after using shared workspaces. Make it clear that this is a responsibility shared by all, not just janitorial staff.

Communicate these policies clearly with all workspace members before you allow them back to work. Posting signages around the office is a good way to remind everyone to do this regularly.

  • Explain the necessity of cleaning prior to disinfecting.

Certain disinfectants or sanitisers may not work effectively if visible contamination is not removed, so it is important that your employees know this.

  • Make sure your employees know the importance of following manufacturer guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting.

Some sanitisers need to be wet on the surface for a particular amount of time to be actively working. Depending on the product you are using, contact time can be anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. Other disinfectants must be wiped onto a surface using a cloth, whilst some sanitisers can be left to air dry.

  • Provide cleaning and disinfecting products to workspace sharers.

It will be easier for your personnel to remember to clean and sanitise their workspaces when they are equipped with the proper tools they need to do so. Some basic products they must have access to include hand cleaner and hand sanitiser, paper towels, sanitising sprays, and disposable wipes.

  • Educate your employees on the items that must be cleaned and disinfected in their shared workspace.

High-touch surfaces such as light switches, desks, hard-backed chairs and armrests, keyboards and mice, telephones (receivers and keypads), touchscreen devices, doorknobs, drawer handles, printers, and photocopiers are just some of the items that your personnel must remember to clean and disinfect regularly.

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