As several U.S. states allow businesses previously shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic to resume operation, it is now time for facility managers to plan a smooth reopening process. More than ever before, customers will scrutinize the visual appearance of facilities and be sensitive to the processes and procedures that are in place to maintain cleanliness, and in turn, health and safety. There are five especially beneficial steps that can help ensure building occupants – whether they are employees or visitors – feel welcome and safe, even as the threat of coronavirus may linger in their minds.
When getting ready to open a facility after a temporary closure, it is imperative that facility managers do not rush the process. Consider abiding by the following five best practices before and after allowing occupants back into previously closed buildings.
• Conduct a top-to-bottom clean and reassess standards and procedures.
Visitors to newly reopened facilities, such as retail stores or fitness centers, will be especially wary of cleanliness. Facility managers should oversee a thorough cleaning of the building before it reopens and ensure there are enough cleaning and sanitizing solutions on hand to continue cleaning frequently. Follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting various surfaces. Additionally, consider the benefits of training and professional certifications to improve cleaning over the long term.
• Eliminate foul odors; create fresh scents.
Facilities should not only look clean, but smell clean. According to survey by the Harris Poll, foul stenches lead 56% of Americans to assume a facility is not clean. Odors may be the result of mold and mildew, urine and feces or even sweat and body odors. It is crucial that facilities establish an odor elimination program that consistently eradicates malodors at the molecular level and replaces them with fresh fragrances. Consider a system that uses oxygen fuel-cell technology to continuously dispense a fresh fragrance for months. It should tackle foul odors with a malodor-neutralizing agent to eliminate rather than simply mask these smells.
• Make it easy for customers to sanitize hands and disinfect surfaces.
Since contaminated hands can spread pathogens to other people or surfaces, it is also important that facilities make hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes readily available. The CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol to kill germs effectively. Consider deploying touch-free dispensers in high-traffic locations throughout the building, such as at entrances and near elevators. In addition, look for disinfecting wipes with ingredients that are easy on furniture and finishes, but tough on germs. At a time when guests are nervous to touch things without gloves, they will appreciate that the facility is encouraging everyone to keep hands and surfaces clean.
• Elevate the visibility of cleaning and those who execute it.
During and post-pandemic, facilities need to regularly address germ and odor hotspots like restrooms and entrances to assure customers of the facility’s dedication to cleanliness. Day cleaning while customers are present is a great strategy for demonstrating that the organization prioritizes occupant well-being. This should include regularly disinfecting any shopping carts or baskets customers use. Consider bringing your facility maintenance staff members to the forefront by posting their photo and a message in restrooms, checkout areas or entrances about how they protect people through cleaning. Now is the time to shine a light on their important work and add a human element to the practice of cleaning.
• Implement crowd control measures.
As COVID-19 spread, essential businesses like supermarkets put in place measures to keep customers physically separated, even as they continued to shop. Employees encouraged customers to stand six feet apart in line, and facilities limited occupancy to discourage dense crowds. Facilities that will soon reopen should learn directly from those that safely remained open. Those that have stayed open can add further crowd control measures to help slow the spread of coronavirus. For example, employees at supermarkets and large retailers can take customers’ temperatures using thermometer guns or other body temperature measuring devices before they enter the premises. They can also provide customers with disposable gloves to avoid direct contact with the food or surfaces. Overall, facility managers should make an informed decision about the crowd control strategy that may be best for their facility and be diligent in enforcing it to protect everyone.
Demonstrating Care for Building Occupants
Workers returning to some offices, fitness enthusiasts going back to the gym and families getting much needed haircuts at newly reopened facilities will be on high alert. They will be more likely to notice if an indoor environment is not clean, if there is no hand sanitizer or if people are too densely packed. Following the five best practices above can show building occupants that their health and well-being is a facility’s primary concern.
Chris Whiting is Executive Vice President for Oxy-Gen Powered, an innovator in reliable, safe and eco-friendly odor elimination.