The gradual return to the office is looming for most of us. And experts have warned that there are certain areas of the office that are ‘hotspots’ for germs and illnesses.
Thanks to the government’s determination to save high street chains and boost the economy, we are seeing a big push to get people back to their normal commutes and back to the office – but as we head back out into the world, the dangers of the pandemic shouldn’t be forgotten.
We all still need to be really careful to maintain social distancing where we can and keep up our sensible hygiene routines.
This is particularly important if you’re back in the office, working in a confined space or using public transport every day.
Most workplaces that are in the process of getting employees back in the building will have made some major changes.
You probably have to wear masks, have daily temperature checks, fill out a health questionnaire, and you might not be back in full-time. But even with all these changes, there are still certain places in the office that pose a higher risk.
Experts believe that if a single surface is compromised in an office, the virus can infect the majority of a workplace in a matter of hours. And, while employers are likely doing everything they can to ensure the safety of their staff, it will still be wise to do what you can to look after your personal safety while at work.
Dr Tomasz George, chief scientist at ViraxCare, has pulled together a list of five ‘Coronavirus hotspots’ in the workplace, and outlined how to keep yourself safe at work:
It’s not just about what you touch in a toilet.
The wearing of masks in bathrooms is especially important as infectious aerosols can be created by flushing toilets containing faecal matter from those infected with Covid-19.
This is why, even before the pandemic, some public toilets had lid systems installed in an attempt to prevent particles entering the air we breathe. These particles can travel an estimated 1 metre from the toilet if it is flushed without the lid being closed, and are believed to be just as infectious as other modes of viral transmission.
Close the lid, and wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet facilities.
Lift buttons can be touched by thousands of people every day but the threat they pose is easy to forget as they’re so small.
As the weather gets colder, you may find yourself wearing gloves as you enter and exit buildings. If not, hands should ideally be sanitised before touching communal buttons.
Alternatively, disposable gloves can be worn, and new hands-free innovations such as button-pushing devices are also available.
Door handles present the same problem and it’s even more of an issue in older buildings, which are more likely to lack automatic doors and won’t be so open plan.
If that sounds familiar, then you can buy handle hooks to overcome this issue and avoid a near-constant hand sanitising regime.
The coffee machine
This advice applies to any shared appliance such as taps, kettles, fridges or microwaves, which are things we often forget about.
If your company hasn’t appointed a full-time cleaner to clean appliances after each use, then everyone should take personal responsibility for doing so.
Wash or sanitise your hands before and after use.
Transmission of the virus is more likely when indoors, especially in confined spaces such as lifts.
Companies should limit the number of people allowed in small spaces and masks should always be worn when not eating and drinking.
Adequate ventilation is important to prevent stagnant air that could contain coronavirus from hanging around, however, this creates other viral transmission challenges.
The airflow generated by air conditioning units may facilitate the spread of viral droplets expelled by those infected over greater distances.
Try to establish whether your employer has positioned staff out of the direct airflow of heating and air conditioning units and whether they have installed viral filters or UV-C disinfection systems.
Basically, be sensible, follow your company’s guidelines to the letter and do everything you can to keep yourself and others safe.
You know the drill – wash your hands, avoid public transport if at all possible, keep your distance from other people.
If you have serious concerns about returning to the office, make sure you voice them to your manager.
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