Covid-19 has heightened our awareness of our surroundings and the cleanliness of shared spaces, especially when we’re out in public. We do our best not to touch our faces. We use hand sanitizer. We wash our hands frequently. We wear face masks. And, when we’re in public areas, we seek clean spaces with limited foot traffic. If the space doesn’t look or ‘feel’ clean, we’re doubtful about returning! And so, business owners and facility managers are working to keep pace with our new reality. To be open and stay open, customers and employees must observe a clean space. Sanitizing and disinfecting play a critical role in keeping businesses open and safe. And, common areas are tough! With this said, here are 3 tips for managing common areas during Covid-19.
Tip #1 – Determine Foot Traffic Specifics
Each business operates differently and uses its building in different capacities. Given current pandemic conditions, tracking busy vs slow periods may be critical. Note these ideas:
- Is the daily foot traffic volume consistent? Or, is foot traffic heavier on certain days and/or certain times?
- Is it only employees entering and exiting the building? Or, are there also patrons, customers, and even various contractors using the building? Do they crowd common areas?
- Does your particular facility support or supply those considered “at-risk” (immunocompromised, immunodeficient, elderly, etc.)?
- Is there a process for tracking persons entering and exiting the building, in the event potential infectious activity occurs?
The CDC advises tracking patrons and supporting them if they have come into contact with infectious activity. One CDC publication states, “contact tracing follows case investigation and is a process to identify, monitor and support individuals who may have been exposed to a person with a communicable disease, such as COVID-19”.
Depending on the quantity of foot traffic, types of foot traffic, and criticality, you will be able to confidently respond with appropriate cleaning and disinfect cycles for your common areas. You might find for example that some areas of your facility require hourly touchpoint disinfect rotations vs other areas of your facility that require only weekly standard cleaning.
Tip #2 – Determine High Touch Surfaces and Use Appropriate Disinfectants
Now that you have determined who is entering and exiting the building, how often, and demographic criticality – it is time to determine frequently touched areas. Common areas that are visited more often, are more likely to have higher potential germ activity. That is why it is so important to clean and disinfect common areas in response to your assessed activity. A great way to analyze high touchpoint areas specific to your building is by walking through ‘as a visitor’. Start from the beginning: open the door, swipe a badge, talk to the receptionists, sit down in a chair, pick up a magazine, get a drink, etc. Afterward, write down the list of these high touchpoints and make sure they are cleaned and disinfected appropriately.
In addition, another way is to observe patron activity during high traffic periods. It might surprise you what presents as high-touch surfaces! For example, do children gravitate to an area that would typically not have a lot of touch activity? Is there a side entry or exit that you thought ‘no one really uses’ but they actually do? Are people leaning on furniture or tables that might be considered atypical?
In addition to these observations, managing common areas during COVID-19 will most certainly entail sanitizing the following:
- Door & Cabinet Handles; push bars
- Light Switches
- Refrigerator and Microwave Doors
- Chair Handles
- All kitchenette and dining area touch surfaces
- All bathroom touch surfaces
- Keyboards and mice
- Conference room touchpoints
- Elevator buttons
- Drinking fountains
Once you have your list compiled, determine the appropriate cleaning agent for each space. Appropriate guidelines are to:
- Always use EPA Registered Agents and follow CDC protocols on cleaning methods.
- Always use gloves and appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when necessary.
- Always instruct employees on which agents must be diluted and how to do so according to manufacturer guidelines.
To find the right EPA Registered Agents, visit the EPA website and use List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). One recommendation, “To find a product, enter the first two sets of its EPA registration number into the search bar. You can find this number by looking for the EPA Reg. No. on the product label. For example, if EPA Reg. No. 12345-12 is on List N, you can buy EPA Reg. No. 12345-12-2567 and know you’re getting an equivalent product.”
Tip #3 – Use A Cleaning Company For Managing Common Areas During COVID-19
Weekly, daily, and certainly hourly disinfecting is a big task that can take away from business productivity and core goals. Outsourcing cleaning to a trusted, experienced commercial cleaning company can give you peace of mind and focus capability. When sourcing a commercial cleaning vendor, it is:
- Experienced in their cleaning processes and training, using EPA registered cleaning agents and compliant with CDC Guidelines.
- Armed with Standard Operating Procedures to provide emergency response for infectious activity.
- Capable of ensuring formal lines of communication and being highly responsive.