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Coronavirus – How to Protect Your Employees and Your Workplace Environment

By Tony Abate

Even as the worst of the pandemic subsides, the majority of people are still concerned about how to prevent the spread of illness. This is particularly evident in business, where leaders of both large and small companies have looked for strategies that will supply continuity and aid in preventing and dealing with outbreaks in the workspace. In addition, providing confidence for employees in returning to the workplace will be key as well. 

A smart first step is to have a comprehensive understanding of COVID-19 and how it spreads. The three main ways the virus spreads, and in turn there are strategies that business owners can use to protect themselves and their employees. 

One way for the virus to spread is direct contact, or person to person. This can mean any number of things, from handshakes and hugs to kisses. After direct contact, a person may then touch their face and infect themselves because of contact with another person. The second way the virus can spread is through in-direct contact. This, in effect, means that a person has touched a surface or object—a desk, computer, restroom door or door knob—and then touches their mouth, eyes or nose. Viruses or bacteria picked up from surfaces can cause sicknesses, and any breaks in the skin can be an easy pathway for a virus to enter and infect the body. The third way is from airborne droplets from an infected person. This can occur whenever someone sneezes, coughs or even speaks during a conversation. Droplets can project from the mouth and nose and project out to up to six feet from the person. This can easily spread infection unknowingly in crowds. 

With this in mind, companies are looking for strategies to mitigate risk as employees return to work in hybrid or full-time in-office  roles. Some business owners have taken to staggering employees’ time in office to limit close contact between workers and minimize exposure. Leadership can also communicate consistently to employees about local outbreaks or citywide outbreaks and adjust schedules accordingly. One factor to remember in remote or hybrid roles is that employees will need to be prepared and supported in order to work and operate functionally from home. 

Another simple strategy that can be implemented is enhanced and consistent sanitization of surfaces in the office.  Leadership should also communicate to office cleaning providers about using products that are proven and have a tested ability to disinfect and clean surfaces correctly. In addition, anyone in office should wash their hands and use hand sanitizer regularly and remember that hands can be a transport mechanism for numerous viruses. 

With that in mind, below is the five step process that the CDC recommends for correct hand sanitization: 

  1. Wet your hands with clean running water 
  2. Apply soap
  3. Lather and scrub with the soap for 20 seconds (Sing the Happy Birthday song twice)
  4. Rinse with clean running water for 10 seconds (Sing the Happy Birthday song once)
  5. Dry completely

Fortunately, hand sanitizers have become quite prevalent and can help to sanitize when hand washing is not possible or practical. But not all sanitizers are created equal, a sanitizer must contain at least a 60% alcohol content to be effective, so leadership and employees should consider buying their own to have with them at all times. 

Finally, we need to consider the element that consumes more space than anything in the workplace and touches everything and every person: the air in our offices.  As mentioned earlier, when sneezing or coughing, we’re spreading viruses and germs in the air.

However, there is technology called bipolar ionization which can kill airborne viruses. This tech is currently being used in companies like Google, Comcast, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and the National Football League. Bi-polar air ionization devices, installed in building heating & air conditioning systems, can turn office air into a sanitizer and can continuously disinfect air and surfaces.

How it works dates back to Albert Einstein and is scientific and complex, but in layman’s terms, bipolar devices act like the old Pac-Man game. Ions – nature’s disinfectant – are emitted into the air and “eat up” and kill the virus, replacing it with clean, pristine, fresh air. Bipolar technology also continuously reduces contaminants in the air and on surfaces making it more effective than wipes or household cleaners. Bi-polar ions have a proven ability to be able to destroy the surface protein of a virus, effectively killing the virus, making the air a cleaning agent. 

There are no absolutes in the fight against coronavirus. Taking the steps mentioned can help to limit the effect this or any virus can have on the workplace, and provide a healthier environment for all. 

Tony Abate is vice president and chief technical officer of AtmosAir Solutions – www.atmosair.com    – which provides clean indoor air technology for commercial office buildings and workspaces