With the one-year anniversary of the pandemic lockdown looming, cleanliness and disinfection is a priority in virtually every setting. Although signs of fatigue are growing, also on the rise are employees’ concerns about the safety of their work environment. Despite companies’ expanded cleaning protocols and increasing availability of vaccines, there are indications that there is room to improve employees’ confidence in workplace safety and cleanliness, according to a new survey conducted by Openworks.
In fact, the importance of frequent cleaning and disinfecting has actually increased since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the survey, which tracked how employee expectations have shifted from May to December 2020. The survey sought to understand full-time employees’ sentiments around cleaning and disinfection of their workplace – and whether time or the introduction of a vaccine have altered those beliefs.
Early in the pandemic, cleanliness became a high priority. Back in May, nearly three-quarters of all workers (73%) said their workplace should be cleaned daily, and that opinion was echoed again in December. Pre-COVID, common daily cleaning protocols relied heavily on chemical products to remove soil, dirt, dust, and organic matter. While effective, the results were more aesthetic than preventive.
Now, workers are increasingly emphatic that buildings need that extra layer of defense. Disinfecting takes cleaning to a new level by destroying or deactivating germs, and that distinction is influencing employees’ expectations. More employees want to see daily cleaning and disinfecting (62% in December vs. 56% in May).
This may be, at least in part, due to conflicting views on the vaccines. Employees are still split on whether they will get a vaccine: 59% said they will, 18% said they will not and another 23% said they were undecided. For the 41% of employees who will not or may not get the vaccine, daily disinfection may offer a degree of reassurance.
“Maintaining a clean and safe workplace is a big responsibility for employers in the context of this pandemic,” said Eric Roudi, President and CEO of OpenWorks. “Countless businesses have implemented entirely new protocols that reflect their belief that the health of their employees is paramount. These business leaders recognize that enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols not only offer physical protection, but they also bring employees peace of mind.”
Indeed, two-thirds of employees surveyed in December expressed confidence that their employer is having their workplace properly disinfected on a regular basis – an increase of 10% since May. However, with a third of employees still uncertain, there is room for businesses to offer reassurances, including implementing a commercial cleaning and disinfection plan.
What is more, 76% of employees say it is important to use commercial cleaning providers who are trained and certified in disinfecting. When asked about what is important when it comes to commercial disinfection, employees also gave priority to:
• Frequent disinfection and cleaning of high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs and light switches (90%)
• Use of EPA-approved antimicrobial disinfecting products (83%)
• Cleaners who are certified in disinfecting through a governing authority (71%)
• Immediate test results showing bacteria has been eliminated (70%)
• Use of a sprayer, fogger, or mister to apply disinfectant to all surfaces (68%)
Communication may also play an important role in raising employee confidence. One example is signage that conveys the work that is being done to protect their health and safety, such as test results showing bacteria has been killed from surfaces, a checklist of disinfected areas and frequency of disinfection by the cleaning crew, or a sign or notice of disinfection posted by the commercial cleaning company or in-house cleaners. For example, companies who utilize any of OpenWorks’ TotalWorksTM services receive a Certified Disinfection certificate for display that affirms the facility has been deep cleaned, sanitized and disinfected.
Reflecting on the survey results, Roudi noted that the findings are consistent with the sharp increase in demand OpenWorks has seen since the outbreak of COVID-19. The company’s nationwide network follows guidelines from leading authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Global Biorisk Advisory Council on processes, equipment, and products, as all part of its efforts to reduce the spread of viruses and infection. In addition, its elite network of service providers uses EPA-approved List N disinfectants.
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