Bed bugs in offices – yes, it can happen

Eric Braun

Bed bugs used to be a problem that only hotels had to manage. However, these pests have become so established today that just about any business can experience a problem with them, including office buildings.

Knowing how to handle a bed bug problem when it strikes can be confusing for a property or office manager who has never had an experience with the biting pests. Here’s Rentokil Steritech’s quick guide to successfully managing bed bug issues in offices.

 

Office environments are not a particularly hospitable environment for bed bugs.

The first step to remember when dealing with a suspected bed bug problem is not to panic. There are two very good reasons for this:

  • Although it is possible that bed bugs could be introduced into an office environment, the chance of a full-blown infestation developing is low. Office environments typically do not have conditions that promote the development of an infestation.
  • Most people cannot properly identify a bed bug. In a 2017 study published in American Entomologist magazine, 35 percent of business travelers and 28 percent of leisure travelers could not properly identify a bed bug in a pest line-up. Often, when bed bug issues are reported in an office environment, they have been misidentified.

 

How are bed bugs introduced to an office environment?

Bed bugs are most often introduced into an office environment unwittingly by people via personal belongings.

  • Employees who have a bed bug issue at home may not realize that bed bugs can be transported into the workplace on personal items such as coats, computer bags, purses, or shoes.
  • There has been a social stigma attached to bed bugs and many people who have problems at home are embarrassed or afraid to tell coworkers or management about them, which can increase the likelihood of re-introductions.
  • Bed bugs have been found on public transportation across North America. Employees who use public transportation to get to work should travel with as few objects as possible and inspect personal items and clothing frequently.
  • Guests visiting your office may also unknowingly transport bed bugs from their personal homes or from hotels where they are staying.
  • Although extremely unlikely, bed bugs could migrate from other office units in your building into yours.

Where can bed bugs be found in an office?

Bed bugs are very adept at concealing themselves and can take up residence in a variety of locations in your office. Most often, they will be found in areas close to people, including:

  • Furniture, including chairs and tables
  • Cubicle partitions
  • Carpeting, between floorboards, and behind baseboards
  • Desks and drawers
  • Lockers and storage areas
  • Curtains and draperies
  • Closets and linen areas
  • Inside electrical plugs and sockets
  • In cracked and broken plaster
  • Backpacks and briefcases

 

Develop a bed bug action plan

Although we’re talking about bed bugs, it’s important that everyone knows what steps to take when any pest issue arises. A detailed action plan must be created, implemented, and communicated to all employees; this will ensure that pest issues are reported and handled in the appropriate manner.

Here are five key steps to take to develop a bed bug plan of action.

  • Educate employees on bed bugs. Since bed bugs are often introduced to office environments by employees, educating employees on ways to reduce their exposure to bed bugs can, therefore, help decrease the likelihood of problems being introduced to your office. Provide tips on how to avoid bed bugs when traveling and how to identify bed bugs that can come home from school or college with children or other family members. You may also be able to leverage your relationship with your pest control provider to negotiate discounts on home pest control for your employees. Rentokil Steritech business customers can secure a discount on home pest control services for their employees through our PestPerks program.
  • Employees should have a clear understanding of how to report any suspected pest issues in an office. This should include who to report problems to, how to report them, and what details should be included (location of the problem, description of pest, etc.). Some offices keep a log where employees can record such things, others designate a point-person, and still others have employees report directly to property management companies. You need to determine the best course of action for your office.
  • Contact a pest management professional as soon as possible. Although bed bug issues aren’t likely to explode overnight, the faster you act, the less likely it is that employees will have an encounter with bed bugs. Other pests issues can become infestations quickly, so it’s always a good idea to have your pest management provider visit as soon as possible. Do not attempt to have on-site maintenance address a suspected bed bug issue, as this could potentially spread the problem to additional areas.
  • If possible, quarantine the area where bed bugs are suspected. This will drastically reduce the likelihood that an employee may encounter bed bugs.
  • In areas where bed bugs are suspected, coats, purses, computer bags, and other personal belongings should be kept off the floor. This will reduce the risk that any introduced pests could hitch a ride home with an employee.
  • Involve human resources if necessary. Bed bug issues can be a sensitive topic, especially when employees are involved, and need to be handled discreetly to avoid embarrassment. If it is suspected that bed bug introductions are coming from an employee, having a human resources representative on hand may be useful to help an employee with options.

Inspection and service for bed bugs

If bed bugs are a serious concern for your office, conducting regular inspections to monitor for activity is the best way to proactively address potential introductions. This can be accomplished efficiently and effectively utilizing K-9 inspection teams. These inspections can be performed quickly and even during off hours, by a specially trained and certified bed bug detection team.

Because most bed bug problems in offices will be uncovered before becoming infestations, a pest management professional can usually quickly and discreetly address a bed bug issue with inspection, physical removal, and treatment of any pests.

However, should a full infestation develop, Rentokil Steritech’s team can provide you with a number of different options for treatment, including fast turn-around heat treatment.

 

Creating a customized program for your office

Finding bed bugs in your office can be disconcerting, but with a pre-determined pest management provider and bed bug action plan in place, you can quickly address any problems without causing unnecessary concern among your employees.
Every office is unique, so your bed bug program should be customized to fit your needs. To discuss a bed bug action plan for your office, contact Rentokil Steritech today. A representative will be happy to come out and work with you to determine a solution that works best for your office and your team.

Eric Braun
Eric Braun

Eric Braun is a Technical Services Manager for Rentokil. Since joining the company in 1997, Eric has held a variety of service and operational management roles. In his current role, he holds responsibility for the technical and operational support within the north eastern region of North America.Eric has a Bachelor of Science in Entomology from the University of Delaware and holds the Board Certified Entomologist credential from the Entomological Society of America. He has his Commercial Pesticide Applicator License in Pennsylvania and is also Sentricon Certified, and GreenPro and QualityPro Certified by the National Pest Management Association. When he’s not immersed in the world of pest control, Eric, his wife, and two small children enjoy being outdoors and exploring U.S. National Parks and have a goal of visiting all 58 parks.

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