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4 ways to help protect the office against today’s challenging mix of viruses

May 15, 2024

Remember rolling your eyes when your mom told you to wash your hands? Well, mom was right. We learned from COVID-19, a harsh teacher, what we always knew. So, how can cleanliness be improved in the workplace?


For your workspace, there are some simple, effective low- and high-tech ways to slow down the spread of diseases like COVID-19, the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and even the common cold. There are good habits and practices, as well as products and devices, that can be powerful tools for employers to help protect employee health and wellness and maintain productivity. So, let’s review what we can do to help you make your workplace safer, healthier, and as a result, less stressful.

1.  Educate on good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene

Again, let’s invoke mom, who likely reminded you to cover your mouth and nose when you sneezed or coughed. Just doing this consistently — using tissues or in a pinch your elbow — can have a significant impact. So can providing your employees with options for disposal of those tissues properly in a trash can.1 Brownie points will be served for using motion-activated contactless trashcans. At ODP Business Solutions, we can help make all of that easier with our selection of facial tissues, open trash cans, step trash cans, and smart trash cans.


Employers and employees need to understand their power to help keep each other well and productive through good habits and practices, as well as products and devices.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands frequently with soap and water.2 And yes, singing “Happy Birthday” twice should do the trick in terms of timing, so says The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).3 Another watchout: touching the face with unwashed hands.4 Encourage the use of soap and water –– about as low-tech as it gets — yet a crucial and effective strategy that plays an important role in disease control. A well-stocked restroom should have a plentiful supply of hand soap, ideally in contactless dispensers.


Another great idea: contactless hand dryers. These motion-activated devices can be easily installed and affordable. And when soap and water aren’t within reach, hand sanitizer placed in high-traffic areas, such as by the water cooler and elevators, can come to the rescue. Just make sure it has a minimum of 60% alcohol.5 See our selection of hand sanitizers, hand soaps, and soap dispensers.

2.  Stock up on cleaning supplies

Even with contactless devices, the proper cleaning and disinfection of surfaces is essential. Just think how many people touch that doorknob, the file cabinet handle, or the elevator button in one day! That’s why surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly and often, with products that have been vetted for effectiveness against germs, otherwise known as bacteria and viruses, as well as for appropriateness to the materials of every surface. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled a list of disinfectant products that are proven to neutralize viruses.6 You may want to consider different products for different tasks, from wiping down computer screens to disinfecting toilets, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes. You can select the right product for each application from our wide selection of furniture cleaners, floor cleaners, bathroom cleaners, disinfectant wipes, glass cleaners, screen cleaners, rubber gloves, sanitizing sprays, dusters, and mildew remover.


There are some items that can’t easily or safely be cleaned chemically but can be disinfected with UV-C light sanitizers. Your phone, for example. It might be really gross. UV-C light sanitizers come in a variety of forms from enclosed cases to wands. See our selection here — and be sure to follow the instructions carefully.


3.  Clear the air

So far, we have covered several relatively easy and inexpensive ways to combat the spread of illness, vouched for by the CDC. There’s one higher-tech strategy that was rarely discussed before the pandemic, but now recognized as invaluable — upgrading office ventilation and air filtration systems. Since COVID-19, RSV, the flu and many other diseases are transmitted through the air, reducing airborne viral particles is important. The CDC recommends having at least 5 air changes in a room each hour and an upgrade to MERV-13 (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) filters or higher.7 Higher-rated filters can remove more pathogens than lower-rated ones. See our selection of air purifiers and air filters.


Another way to combat the spread of airborne diseases is installing partition walls, which was advocated by a 2021 study by the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH) of Canada.8 And while many of us have adopted the use of air purifiers in our homes, we could also benefit from them in our offices. A CDC simulation found that using two portable HEPA air cleaners in each room could reduce the spread of airborne infectious particles by up to 65% and up to 90% when used along with universal masking.9 View our selection of partition walls and HEPA air purifiers.

4. Send sick employees home

Finally, and this is the easiest: GO HOME! It’s also the hardest. Employers can help employees feel comfortable about leaving work—for their own recovery and to protect colleagues—by creating compassionate and respectful policies. No one should be afraid or ashamed about protecting others from contagious diseases or working from home to care for sick family members, especially kids when schools are closed. Sick-day allowance, leave and flexible telework schedules all play a role in protecting everyone in the office.


When we work together to promote a healthier environment, we may boost morale, increase employee retention, and improve productivity. Now go call your mother!











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