5 Ways Facilities Managers Can Reduce Germs in the Office

Tips to help facilities managers increase productivity and reduce employee sick days.

Even with an employee illness prevention program that provides vaccines and education, sickness can spread through an office at lightning speed. Lots of people in close quarters using the same bathrooms and sharing computer equipment means that germs can quickly spread. Today, fighting pathogens is more important than ever.

While no one wants to be sick, absenteeism is also a costly business problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that productivity losses due to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion, or $1,685 for each employee. As a facilities manager, your job is to keep the building operating as smoothly as possible. Here are five ways that you can help prevent the spread of germs at your office building.

1. Provide hand sanitizer at building entrances and other key locations.
In addition to posting signage reminding employees to prevent the spread of germs, such as free downloadable posters from the CDC, take prevention a step further by actually providing hand sanitizer. Add a large sign with a hand sanitizer station at key entrances, outside restrooms, in breakrooms and in conference/meeting rooms, to help keep germs from employees spreading around the office. Since people often stop registering information on signs they see every day, consider changing the message every week. Post interesting and descriptive facts about the spread of illness to encourage good hygiene.

2. Provide workers with workplace cleaning supplies and PPE.
Your employees want to stay healthy, and they are willing to help. Supplying basic workplace wellness supplies such as disinfecting wipes, facial tissues, hand sanitizer, gloves and face masks will allow them to keep their workspace cleaner and help them stay safe. And don’t forget visitors to your facility — providing them with personal protective equipment (PPE) can help everyone stay healthier.

3. Focus on air quality.
Airborne diseases spread via bacteria and viruses traveling on dust particles, or on respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Facility Executive magazine recommends taking a two-pronged approach to air quality: using green cleaning techniques to reduce air pollution and also cleaning the air. Instead of putting a HEPA air filter in the HVAC system, use a commercial-grade, standalone air purification system.

4. Increase vacuuming and cleaning frequency during a pandemic. 
Common area surfaces such a door handles, push bars, elevator buttons, handrails, microwave and refrigerator handles, and coffee makers will need frequent and effective cleaning and disinfection. Having disinfecting wipes easily available will encourage workers to help keep these touch surfaces germ free.

Your cleaning staff may not typically vacuum every night. Since germs can spread through carpets, rugs and floor mats, consider increasing the cleaning schedule to daily when many employees may be out sick. Using a quality, enclosed bag, HEPA filter vacuums help ensure your staff is not just spreading dirty air around your facility. By monitoring the CDC reportings, you can also begin prevention when illness is in your area to try to avert an outbreak at your office before it ever starts.

5. Pay attention to your own health.
As the facilities manager, you spend your days interacting with staff from all departments. This means that if you're not feeling well, you have a greater chance of spreading your germs to multiple people than an employee who works with only a handful of other people. If you're not feeling healthy, avoid shaking hands with employees or touching common areas, such as desks. And follow the same advice you tell the rest of the office: If you're sick, stay home.

Now, more than ever, our attention is focused on a healthier workplace. By making employee illness prevention one of your top priorities, you can help cut down on absences and lost productivity. And hopefully, you will even stay healthier yourself.

For more information or a consultation, please email JanSanHelp@staples.com