The renewed importance of office maintenance during COVID-19

Ian Horstead, Head of Client Services Office maintenance

Following recent government advice, many offices will remain closed for the coming months. Here is some advice for facilities and offices managers managing buildings in winter, with simple tips on how to prepare for the eventual return to the workplace.

The evolving role of the facilities manager

There’s an increased pressure on facilities managers to ensure buildings are safe and ready for the return of employees. One key change many will notice is the restrictions on people entering certain buildings, so facilities managers and tradespeople will need to take a flexible approach when visiting offices.

To help people feel more comfortable in the workplace, we’ll begin to see offices move towards technology that facilities a more touchless way of working, which will also assist the teams carrying out regular maintenance such as smart sensors.

Facilitating a safe return

Ongoing planned maintenance is vital to ensure building services are running at optimum levels and they also dramatically reduce the risk of breakdowns.

Many key facilities have been unintentionally neglected for months, such as air conditioning, electrics, and water systems. It’s important to get maintenance activity back on track, otherwise this has the potential to not only impact the functionality of the building, but it’s also a risk to employees’ health and wellbeing.

Cleaning and checking your equipment

It may sound obvious but a good place to start is by checking your equipment and making sure it is regularly PAC tested. Performing a deep clean before employees’ return is imperative. This means thoroughly cleaning and sanitising equipment, especially in high-touch common areas like kitchens, break-out spaces, and washrooms. According to UK government guidelines, frequently touched surfaces should be wiped down twice a day.

Flush your water supplies

One place often overlooked is the water supply to offices. Stagnant water favours Legionella growth and with many office water systems remaining untouched for months, it’s vital these are checked, inspected and cleaned.

Getting back to weekly flushing schedules is a good way to reduce the chances of any problems cropping up - it is easy to do and requires only a small amount of time. We’d recommend the five-minute rule – each tap and water outlet (including showers) should be opened and left to run through for at least five minutes – this ensures a full flush of the system.

The importance of good ventilation

Ensuring good ventilation in the workspace is an integral part of elevating user wellbeing whilst it can also help to reduce the risk of germs spreading, so it’s important to improve general ventilation, preferably through fresh air. Consider, if you can, increasing the circulation of outside air and preventing pockets of stale air in occupied spaces, an easy way to do this in most spaces is by installing ceiling or desk fans.

The risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus in the workplace is extremely low as long as there is an adequate supply of fresh air and ventilation, this means that offices can continue using most types of air conditioning systems as normal. However, if you use a centralised ventilation system that removes and circulates air to different rooms, it is recommended that you turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply. Several new technologies are also looking at the possibilities of disinfecting air in systems using UV light, which could become more and more popular in battling infection rates.

Are you returning to the workplace? Check out our maintenance checklist here.

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