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How to keep your staff and business safe when returning to the office

Megan Horgan

As restrictions start to lift and businesses around the world adapt to new ways of working, getting back to the office safely comes with challenges. The coronavirus pandemic has put public health concerns firmly into the spotlight and increased awareness of the risks that bacteria and viruses present. When offices re-open, workers expect hygiene practices to be in place that protect their health and safety.

Facilities managers need to consider how they can minimise risk to help avoid employee illnesses and the potential for building closures while contamination incidents are resolved. Encouraging high hygiene standards in offices is critical and any pest or hygiene problems that have arisen during lockdown also need to be addressed.

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If you’re returning to work soon, there are ongoing measures that can be put in place to safeguard your colleagues, premises and equipment as part of a ‘new normal’ and in the event of a further lockdown period.

How are offices at risk?

Office environments provide ideal conditions for bacteria and viruses to spread and illnesses to take hold. Pest issues may also pose serious, often unseen, health risks, in addition to the significant damage to office buildings and equipment they can cause.

Pests and poor hygiene can cause health problems

Every 60 seconds, a working adult touches as many as 30 objects that may be contaminated by bacteria or viruses that cause infectious diseases.[1] Due to how easily germ transmission can occur, viruses can spread through an office within hours of a single contamination incident.

Every precaution should be taken to reduce the spread of germs in office environments. This can include a disinfection service as an immediate step to get your business back up and running and the implementation of good hygiene practices and solutions to help you safeguard for the future. It can also involve adopting pest management strategies as pests can facilitate the spread of germs in the following ways.

  • Rats and mice are known to spread more than 35 diseases and are associated with serious illnesses, such as leptospirosis. Rodents carry ectoparasites (parasites that live on the outside of their host), which can contain infectious pathogens that cause health concerns such as Lyme disease.
  • Birds carry over 60 diseases that can infect humans in their faeces or feathers or that are harboured in their nests.
  • Crawling and flying insects can spread illnesses and trigger allergies and asthma.
  • Pests can cause medical problems by biting humans.
  • Crawling and flying insects can spread illnesses and trigger allergies and asthma.
  • Pests can cause medical problems by biting humans.

Pests can impact business

Pest infestations are another source of illness and can result in additional costs.

  • Pests can cause damage by gnawing equipment or materials – nearly half (49%) of reported electrical equipment damage is caused by rodents[2]. They can also cause substantial damage to office buildings themselves, leading to expensive repair costs.
  • If employees or visitors notice infestations, pests can cause negative feelings and reputational harm – 70% of firms cite loss of reputation due to pest infestations as a concern or a high concern[3].
  • If pest infestations escalate, they can substantially raise cleaning costs.
  • By causing illnesses and incidents that lead to office closures, pests can impact your business’s operations. In a survey, 55% of businesses reported losing at least one working day per year as a result of infestation.[4]

The hotspots to consider in your office

Risk hotspots in offices include:

  • frequently touched objects, such as door handles or kettles, where germs are transferred to surfaces
  • communal areas, such as meeting rooms and washrooms, where high footfall and close contact between employees makes the spread of germs easier
  • entry points around your building where pests can gain access
  • storage areas where pests can harbour
  • anywhere food is stored or consumed that could attract pests, cause contamination and result in foodborne illness; this includes canteens or left-over food on desks

The floorplan below details further risk hotspots in offices.

Rentokil offers a range of solutions that can help mitigate risks in these areas and protect your office and employees.

Solutions to help offices re-open safely

  • Resolve any pest problems that may have arisen over lockdown and safeguard against future infestations withour infestation treatments, riddance programmes and proofing solutions
  • Eliminate sources of contamination during a disease outbreak and give your employees the best protection with a range of hygiene disinfection services that includes site disinfection, fogging and deep-cleaning
  • Reduce the risk of illnesses associated with infestations and keep your office safe with pest disinfection services

Ongoing measures to help your office safeguard for the future

  • Proactively prevent pest infestations with our integrated pest management programmes that are tailored to you organisation’s needs and offer total control  
  • Be reassured that your premises are always protected with 24/7 remote monitoring solutions, online access from wherever you’re working and instant alerts for quick resolution. Our remote monitoring solutions offer unrivalled protection against rodents and help facilitate more distant ways of working
  • Stop the spread of germs and eliminate bacteria and viruses with a full range of hygiene solutions for premises that include hand, air and surface hygiene solutions

Getting your office ready for the ‘new normal’

It’s clear what the risks are as you prepare to re-open your office. In addition to the social distancing measures that will help to reduce any anxiety and keep your returning employees and visitors safe, there are also pest and hygiene practices that you’ll need to implement. Be prepared for the future and learn more about germ transmission and how you can protect key hotspots in your office with our back-to-work guide.

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Sources:
[1] Dr Charles Gerba, University of Arizona
[2] The Business Impact of Pests, Rentokil and CEBR Research by Option Matters, 2015
[3] The Business Impact of Pests – Legislative Markets, Rentokil, 2016
[4] The Business Impact of Pests, Rentokil and CEBR Research by Option Matters, 2015

Megan Horgan
Megan Horgan

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