Organizations are starting to dip their toes into the workplace re-entry waters, and that brings many questions on how to create a healthy environment for employees and guests. Workplace furniture cleaning and disinfecting is a crucial component that you may not have yet considered. With every employee comes a work surface, task chair, and many other solutions that make your workplace what it is. Diving into this process may seem intimidating, but our considerations below will help you get started on a well-rounded path to re-entry.
Before we dive into our suggestions, please note that every space presents its unique challenges that may or may not align with the general guidelines below. Please engage with one of our consultants for a more tailored approach.
Cleaning & Disinfecting Workplace Furniture: What You Need to Know
Clean Is Different Than Disinfected
As we’ve all come to learn throughout the pandemic, the idea of “clean” is a far cry from COVID-19 disinfected. At this point, your standard household cleaners won’t do the trick in ensuring a healthy space for your employees and guests at work.
In terms of definition, cleaning is the process of removing or reducing germs on a surface. Disinfecting takes it a step further and aims to kill the germs and bacteria.
At this point, the CDC recommends cleaning as the first step – not the end-all-be-all – in your workplace safety journey. To create the healthiest space possible, you must disinfect after you clean to remove any lingering germs in your area.
To disinfect your workspace, the CDC has a list of recommended disinfectants that are known to work directly against COVID-19. However, PPE and sanitization materials have been in short supply since March and could be challenging to obtain. If you’re unable to find one of the listed disinfectants, you can use a diluted solution mix of water and unexpired bleach.
Here’s what the CDC recommends:
- Mix 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) of 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite bleach per gallon of room temperature water OR 4 teaspoons of 5.25%–8.25% bleach per quart of room temperature water.
- Follow the manufacturer’s application instructions for the surface, ensuring a contact time of at least 1 minute.
- Ensure proper ventilation during and after application.
These homemade solutions are only considered effective as disinfectants for 24 hours, so taking this approach would be a daily addition to your cleaning process.
Leverage the Manufacturers’ Knowledge
The path to a disinfected workspace becomes even murkier when you consider the materials within your environment. Bleach solutions and disinfectants are generally okay for your hard surfaces, but what about all the fabrics and textiles that your team touches daily?
If you’re not knee-deep in textiles every day (which we’re assuming you aren’t), this can be a lot to consider. For example, did you know that antimicrobial fabrics only protect against microorganisms that could deteriorate the material itself? These textiles will not protect your staff from any infectious diseases.
For this level of complexity, it’s best to leverage the expertise of your furniture solutions partner and their network of manufacturers. Many furniture manufacturers have been diving deep into textile cleanliness over the last six months. They have created helpful resource guides and information that will ensure the integrity of your furniture.
Jill Jones, Surface Materials Category Manager for the National, Kimball, and Etc. brands, notes that National has taken several steps to keep their clients’ health at the forefront.
“As our customers formulate their re-entry plan, furniture cleaning and disinfecting is just one part of their strategy. We created a dedicated surface and material care page on our website to support furniture cleaning and disinfection questions. We also built a material cleaning and disinfecting matrix that our customers could reference for quick and easy information.
Finally, we worked with our Alliance fabric partners and shared their cleaning and disinfection protocols. Customers will find that many of our materials can be disinfected without damaging them.”
For those focused on the long-term implications of Covid-19, Jones says we already see a shift in approach. “We believe this pandemic will shift how furniture materials are selected,” said Jones. “The Healthcare market had already been specifying materials based on how they could be disinfected – now it’s on everyone’s radar.”
Can I Do This Myself?
Unfortunately, we can’t answer that question for you. However, here are a handful of questions to consider when building your strategy:
- How big is your space?
- How many employees work in that location?
- How dense are the workstations? Are employees sitting closer than six feet together?
- Are you able to cordon off certain areas to phase cleaning? Or will every area need to be completed every day?
- What type of materials are in your space?
If your responses to these questions indicate that the job may be too big for your internal team to take on, there are pro cleaning organizations that tackle this type of job. Connect with your solutions partner, and they’ll guide you toward a local resource that can support your clean workspace goals.
As you can see, workplace re-entry is going to be tricky – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. According to this recent Fortune article, the stiffest penalty of working from home may be lost creativity and innovation. Those serendipitous, collaborative encounters between employees that foster innovation and creativity are crucial for moving business forward. A clean and safe workplace is the catalyst for those opportunities.
Are you planning your company’s re-entry into the work environment? RJE can help you navigate clean surfaces, textiles, and many other critical considerations during this time. Start the conversation here.