Written by: Lillian Connors
COVID-19 has held the world tight in its grips in the past few months. However, there’s finally good news: we are winning against the pandemic. Scientists are closer to finding an effective vaccine, with some vaccine candidates being in Phase 3 and limited use. People have started to go out of their homes after the long quarantine periods. Aircraft have started to soar through our skies again.
Another positive sign that we’re on our way to recovery is that many businesses have started to reopen its doors. But as the economy sputters back, we need to remember that the coronavirus is still here. When we finally go back to our offices and sit in front of computers, disinfecting our workstations will be a part of our everyday lives.
An Insight into the COVID-19 Coronavirus
Before discussing how to disinfect office spaces post COVID-19, we need to understand how the coronavirus works.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a coronavirus, a kind of virus that causes diseases in mammals and birds. Like all viruses, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is extremely simple. Sans all technicalities, it’s just a set of genetic material protected by a casing of fat, with spike-like proteins projecting from the casing.
The coronavirus’s only function is to replicate itself, but it can’t replicate by itself. It needs to inject itself into a host cell, and the spike proteins are the keys to enter a cell. Once the virus enters the right cell, it inserts genetic material into the cell’s biological machinery, instructing the host cell to create copies of the virus. These new instructions interrupt the cell’s normal metabolic processes, essentially making the cell a virus factory.
In time, millions of new viruses infect healthy cells and overcome the system. At this stage, the person suffers from the disease until his immune system generates antibodies to combat the virus and the infected cells.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is primarily transmitted via droplets of moisture from an infected person’s respiratory tract. Direct inhalation or ingestion of these droplets is the main mode of virus transmission.
However, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can also remain on droplets that land on frequent-touched surfaces such as tables, stair handles, elevator buttons, and, yes, workstations. If you touch a contaminated surface, then subsequently touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth, you may inadvertently infect yourself with the virus
Disinfection is Super Effective
For all the menace that the coronavirus poses, it’s actually unbelievably easy to destroy outside the body. You see, the fatty layer that surrounds the coronavirus’ genetic material is incredibly fragile. In fact, ordinary soap can tear it apart, much like how soap breaks up oil or grease. Without its protective covering, the unprotected genetic material is then washed down the drain.
Thus, hand washing is your foremost defense against the coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends frequently washing your hands with soap and water.
The good news is that there are a lot of other disinfectants that work similarly to soap. You can use all these to make your office a safer place to work in even in the midst of COVID-19.
How to Disinfect Your Office
Getting back to work in your office during or post COVID-19 shouldn’t be a health risk. Simply follow steps to disinfect your office:
- Wash your hands with soap and water. This destroys all viruses---not just the SARS-CoV-2---that reside in your hands. Make sure you rub soap all-around your hands up to your wrists for at least 20 seconds. It takes that long to break down the coronavirus’s protective casing.
- Each work station should have a bottle of sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 70%. Sanitizers work like soap; the alcohol breaks down the virus’s fat casing. Gel-based alcohol sanitizers are highly recommended because the gel stays longer on the hands.
Sanitizers should be placed in entry points and frequently visited places. Visitors and employees should use sanitizers before entering and upon exiting the office. Ensure that sanitizer dispensers are always filled up.
- Your keyboard, desk, armchair, and other surfaces in your work station are likely places to be contaminated by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Disinfect them using disinfectant wipes, which are available in tubes. Note that unlike sanitary wipes, disinfectant wipes are not to be used on your hands or face. Rather, they are to be used on surfaces.
A disinfectant wipe must be slightly moist when taken out of the tub. Wipe your work surface and frequently touched items with the disinfectant wipe. There should be a visible wet sheen of disinfectant on the surface. Don’t wipe the disinfectant; let it dry naturally so it can do its work.
Employees should have a tube of disinfectant in their work station. New tubes must be issued if an employee finishes a tube.
- Recently, in July 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that using Lysol against coronavirus is effective. Specifically, Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist and Lysol Disinfectant Spray can destroy the viruses 2 minutes after contact.
Knowing that using Lysol against coronavirus works, it’s a good idea to have your company acquire sufficient stocks of Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist or Lysol Disinfectant Spray.
- To safeguard US citizens from the threat of COVID-19, the EPA activated its Emerging Viral Pathogens Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides. This allows manufacturers to submit to the EPA information that prove their products are effective against hard-to-kill viruses. If the EPA approves the product, these manufacturers are then free to advertise or make claims that the approved product can destroy the coronavirus.
The EPA has a “List N” that enumerates disinfectants that can be used on the coronavirus. In March 2020, the EPA released its initial list of disinfectants that are effective against SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This list is regularly updated.
Click here to use the List N tool, and see which brands and products are effective disinfectants against SARS-CoV-2.
- To disinfect electronics such as computer monitors, phones, tablets, or screens, use an alcohol-based wipe or spray that contains 70% alcohol. Let the alcohol evaporate then wipe the equipment dry.
- Dust your workstation---and the entire office---frequently. Even though the possibility is remote, dust can be carriers of the coronavirus. Aerosolized moisture can “hitch” on dust particles, which could land on a frequently touched surface or inhale by a person.
Frequent dusting also helps improve indoor air quality, which is a boon for colleagues suffering from respiratory sensitivities such as asthma or allergies.
Other Useful Tips
Disinfecting your workstation is a very effective way of preventing COVID-19. However, you can add another level of protection in relation to disinfecting your office through more encompassing solutions.
- Earlier, we learned that COVID-19 can be transmitted by touching infected surfaces. Knowing this, it’s a good idea to reduce the number of surfaces that employees can touch with their hands. Such initiatives include:
- installing double-swinging doors so that the doors can be opened or closed by pushing with the foot or shoulder
- installing a foot handle on doors. Employees simply push the door with their foot, and they don’t have to hold the handles
- installing sensors that automatically switch on the lights if a person enters the room and turns them off if the person leaves. Motion-sensor switches can be installed in bathrooms, stock rooms, conference rooms, and small offices.
- installing sensors on bathroom features so that employees won’t have to touch faucets when washing hands or flushing the toilet. This also saves you a lot of water because the sensors automatically turn off the flow of water once the person finishes doing his or her personal business.
- Disinfecting bigger areas such as floors, walls, and windows require a more cost-effective solution. There are commercial disinfectants for such purposes. However, if you don’t have one, you can make your own disinfectant. Mix 5 tablespoons of household bleach to 1 gallon of tepid water. Use this solution to mop or wipe large surfaces. Bleach solutions like this are effective up to 24 hours
- Identify frequently touched objects such as doorknobs, light switches, cabinet handles, waste bins, and elevator buttons. Disinfect these objects several times a day using commercial disinfectants or bleach solutions. Frequent disinfection is a must considering that different people make direct contact with these objects throughout the day.
- Schedule a complete office disinfection session. A good rule of thumb would be once every week until the threat of COVID-19 passes. Have a professional service provider disinfect every small office, conference room, storeroom, nooks, and crannies. They have industrial-strength disinfectants that effectively destroy germs.
- Amend the company policy to include frequent hand washing, sanitizing upon entry and exit, and daily disinfecting of workstations. Create and display posters regarding these sanitary practices so employees will be constantly reminded.
The World Health Organization has a comprehensive list of recommendations on how to get offices ready to deal with COVID-19. Check these out and determine the applicable recommendations to your workplace.
The outlook of our battle against COVID-19 is looking positive day by day. We’re ready to restart our economy and go back to our normal lives. Because the coronavirus will be with us at least until an effective cure or vaccine is developed, it’s important that we adapt to the situation.
The good thing is that adapting to the existing threat involves simple activities that are done regularly and correctly. Even if we’re not scientists, we can help win the war by doing our share. That is, regular disinfecting, sanitizing, following safety protocols, and practicing good hygiene.
Lillian Connors is a Senior Content Developer at ACT-ENVIRO, with years of experience in developing content. Throughout her career, she always looked for ways to contribute to the environment in recycling efforts, while providing valuable information with her written articles.