While businesses are starting to welcome back employees as vaccinations rise and new infections and hospitalizations subside, the journey back to the office is shaping up to be slow and indirect. Companies are facing increasing pressure to adopt hybrid working models while staffing leaders in professional workplace settings are navigating a myriad of challenges when it comes to recruiting qualified workers. In fact, flexibility is quickly becoming a selling point for workers – both for current employees and those navigating the job market.

For companies looking to implement some level of hot desking or “free address” in the future as part of a more flexible work environment, it is critical that enhanced cleaning plans are put in place to help workers feel comfortable returning to the office – in whatever capacity – after more than a year away. After all, hot desks increase the number of shared spaces in an office and opportunity for virus transmission, whether it be Covid-19, the flu or the common cold. And not only does that present health risks for employees, it can result in massive losses in productivity for businesses.

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As all of us have taken numerous precautions over the past 16 months to protect ourselves against Covid-19, it can be easy to lose sight of just how transmissible more common germs are, especially in the workplace. If just one person comes into work sick, over half of common surfaces in an office, including shared desks, doorknobs, copy machine buttons and refrigerators, can become contaminated. What’s more, contamination of a single commonly-touched area can infect 40 percent to 60 percent of other surfaces in less than half a day – and in some cases in a mere two hours.

Fortunately, routine disinfecting, especially of high-touch surfaces, can help remove microscopic pathogens while simultaneously improving an office’s appearance. Where possible, all surfaces should be cleaned with a microfiber cloth, EPA-registered disinfectants and peroxide-based cleaners.

In addition to ensuring the right products are used, businesses should also develop detailed hot desk decontamination policies should any Covid-19 case be reported. With anxiety still widespread around Covid-19 and other illnesses, communication – and in some cases overcommunication – will be key to assuaging employee concerns.

If any questions existed pre-pandemic regarding the efficacy of cleaning, the proof could not be clearer: cleaning is key to mitigating the spread of illnesses. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, the flu virtually disappeared this past season thanks to Covid-curbing practices such as mask-wearing and enhanced cleaning. A total of 1,316 positive flu cases were logged between September 2020 to January 2021, compared to 130,000 cases during the same time period pre-pandemic. Cases of chickenpox, strep throat and stomach viruses have also dropped dramatically during the pandemic.

Now more than ever, businesses need to embrace the public health lessons of the pandemic and adopt enhanced disinfecting standards that will help keep people healthier in the future and encourage employees to return to the workplace.

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