The new Omicron variant of COVID-19 is wreaking havoc all across the world. In Australia, even with such high vaccination rates, we are now seeing cases in the thousands per day, especially in Victoria and New South Wales, and with this sudden increase in cases, authorities and workplaces are trying to predict its impacts on bringing people back to the workplace. But in order to successfully make employees return to the office, employers will now have to take some stringent measures to ensure their employees are safe, and can return to work with peace of mind.
A new study conducted in the USA by the Cleaning Coalition of America (CCA) and reported by CNBC, revealed that over 66% of respondents want better office cleaning practices before they’d feel safe returning to work fulltime. 38.3% of respondents even went so far as to say that they’d consider changing jobs if regular cleaning was not prioritised at their workplace in the wake of the pandemic. While these results speak mostly about respondents in America, the sentiments are much likely shared by employees in Australia, especially with the sudden surge in cases due to the Omicron variant. And with employers in Australia already struggling with labour shortages, what does this mean for employers who want their existing workforce to not just remain with them but also return to the office?
Now’s the time to invest in commercial cleaning
According to the study above, 62% of employees believed that even seeing cleaning professionals regularly at their workplace would make them feel a lot safer about their employer’s dedication to their safety. Even before the pandemic, businesses that invested in a commercial cleaning company reported higher levels of productivity, employee and client satisfaction while also minimising staff absences due to sickness.
A commercial cleaning company will not only conduct frequent high-touchpoint cleaning on surfaces that see the most traffic, such as doorknobs, communal kitchens and break rooms, but will also conduct deep cleans when required to ensure your employees are kept safe.
What offices can do to improve their cleaning practices
- Develop a plan
How often do you want the cleaners to come in for regular high-touchpoint cleaning? What are the surfaces they are going to be cleaning? How much area will they be cleaning? What does your cleaning budget look like? High-touchpoint surfaces should be cleaned at least once a day, and you can choose to get everything disinfected once or twice a week. Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to get the best services depending upon your requirements.
- Ensure the commercial cleaning companyyou hire is trained for the job
Are they using the right cleaning products? Do they have protective equipment to protect themselves from the chemicals they will be using? Does the company you hire have green cleaning equipment and products? Are they trained in COVID-19 cleaning practices? Do they prioritise staff safety? You may want to check if they comply with quality, safety and environmental ISO standards.
- Install sanitiser stations
Today, people are more conscious about proper handwashing and hygiene practices, and installing sanitiser stations at regular intervals in the workplace will signal to your employees and customers that you take their health and safety seriously. You should also be placing disinfectant wipes across the premises and instructions to staff on protocols for personal and office hygiene practices. Your commercial cleaning provider may be able to assist you with this product supply.
- Talk to your employees
Be empathetic. Everyone is struggling in these hard times, and knowing the fears and your employees’ reasonings behind these fears will help you come up with the best possible plan. If an employee is worried about passing on the virus to an immunocompromised family member, is it possible for that particular employee to continue remote working indefinitely? Who are the team members whose presence is essential to the running of your business and who could easily work from home indefinitely?
- Rotate employee shifts
To minimise the risks of contamination and exposure to the virus, you may want to rotate shifts and limit the people working in the office at one time. While social distancing protocols may have eased, many employees are still apprehensive of standing or sitting too close to other people, even if they are their colleagues and are fully vaccinated. Employees may feel more at ease if they aren’t sharing a small office space with 20 more people for up to 8 hours a day. Hybrid working arrangements are the new norm and are here to stay.
- Decide on a contingency plan
What happens if there’s another lockdown? Or a significant surge in cases that forces you to close your doors again? Or a confirmed case in your workforce? What will you do if it spreads to your entire workforce? All of these are questions you need to have answers to before you ask your employees to return to work full-time.
Commercial cleaning is not optional anymore but a need of the hour. According to Australian law, an employer is expected to provide their employees with a safe working environment. Your employees deserve to feel safe in the space they’re going to be spending more than half of their waking hours in, and as the employer, it is your responsibility to ensure your employees have peace of mind when working for you.