Hygiene and the Workplace: Things We’ve Learned from COVID-19

office space during covid

Whether coronavirus will be responsible for the death of the traditional office is debatable. But what is certain is that as people return to workspaces — coworking, private or otherwise — hygiene will rise to the top of the agenda to make sure everybody has access to safe, sanitary working conditions. 

It’s not that offices have been places of squalor pre-epidemic. 

Although the majority of offices get a nightly clean, workplaces might have that “lived-in” look. Most of us know our staff room fridge could have been sanitised weekly rather than monthly, or at the very least those unreclaimed, mouldy sandwiches could have been thrown out. Certainly, nobody would ever bat an eyelid at sharing a pen — now frowned upon as part of the government’s “working safely during coronavirus” guidelines — or pushing the boundaries of a common cold during a busy season. 

The offices we’ve been frequenting so often have been “okay”, but now we need better-equipped spaces that are good — if not borderline perfect — when it comes to hygiene.  

Post-coronavirus, we’ll be doing more than disposing of anonymously-owned sandwiches. But what exactly about workplace hygiene have we learnt? 

Cleaning as a Personal Responsibility

Those nightly cleans performed by an external contractor allow time for common areas to be tidied, hoovered and wiped clean, leaving your place of work feeling refreshed when you return in the morning. But it’s clear that to keep workplaces hygienic, we all need to muck in. 

Regularly cleaning office germ hotspots such as desks, door handles, mugs and photocopiers helps to reduce the build-up of germs during the day when cleaners aren’t around. 

No Batch Beverage Making

It could become common to bring your own cutlery, mug and crockery to work while always having an antibacterial wipe handy to disguise your activity across the office floor. Sadly, it might also be time to make your own cuppa and not rely on the closest coworker to the coffee machine.

Of course, this is great news for the newcomers on the block and apprentices who often get riddled with the task of memorising everyone’s drink preference before balancing an overburdened tray with hot drinks. 

Getting Serious about Sick Days

To protect the workplace, we’ll need to do less, not more. 

Leaders will need to remove the guilt many employees feel for taking time off due to a cold, cough or other common but contagious illness. Staying away from the workplace while sick — either resting or working from home — will significantly help to reduce the risk of infection and keep bacteria away. 

According to CNBC, 90% of employees go to work when feeling under the weather. This statistic comes from a 2019 article. We’re sure the percentage of people doing this in 2020 or 2021 will be radically different. 

Larger, More Agile Layouts

Claustrophobic cubicles and tightly packed desks could be a thing of the past for most workplaces. 

Instead, companies should opt for more agile workspaces according to the interior specialist, Rob Day. In these workspaces, desks will rarely be fixed, allowing teams to easily manoeuvre and change the layout of their office depending on the day’s activities. Flexible spaces like these, which heavily integrate technology, help workplaces to be fit for purpose — even if that purpose is continually shifting. 

While some people could be quick to assume that offices will become more clinical as a result of the outbreak, we argue they’ll only get more creative. 

Workplace Wellbeing Rituals 

No doubt wellbeing will be deemed far more important than it ever has been, ensuring workers’ physical and mental health is in check. 

Luckily, a cleaner, tidier workspace has been proven to work wonders for mental health and to help aid productivity. 

Yet that’s not the only change we’ll see to combat staff wellness. Like hospitals, most offices will provide hand sanitiser units at entrances, exits, corridors and in congested areas encouraging team members to systematically sanitise their hands before entering or leaving work. This small but significant step will reduce the spread of germs and may also allow teams to feel more in control of office hygiene. 

Taking Flexible Working Requests Seriously

Ever submitted a plea to work from home or in a new environment one day a week, only for it to be ignored?

The forced transition to remote work is causing many leaders to warm to the idea of allowing workers to dip in and out of the office as they please. By doing this, companies are bound to have a happier workforce and one that is more distributed, making the office population easier to control. 

It’s what Wired recently termed “the tale of two offices”, where half of the workforce will be stationed at their desks while the others are elsewhere. 

Are you looking for a fully-equipped, hygienic office? At our coworking locations, we have concierge staff on-site both day and night, so there is always somebody overseeing the cleanliness of our spaces. 

At some of our sites, we have coffee shops that will reopen when safe to do so to make getting your coffee fix easier and cleaner. So you might not have to stash your favourite mug at work just yet — but we do draw the line at leaving your mouldy sandwiches in the fridge. 

We have space for individuals who want to hot desk on their days away from the office and companies that want to set up shop in a fully-serviced space. Interested? Book a free tour of any of our London locations.