For years, my friends have made fun of me for whipping out my hand sanitizer after onsite meetings at clients' offices. "You never know who has been touching what" was always my response. As it turns out, I was on to something. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is encouraging U.S. businesses to take a serious look at their in-office policies to contain the potential spread of the virus.
I spoke with Cody Millsap, a vice president at Stratus Building Solutions, a commercial cleaning and janitorial services company. Beyond the usual "Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough" and "Don't come to work sick," here's what I learned.
1. Practice the one-way wipe down
Contrary to the way we usually clean, wiping down a surface in a circular or back-and-forth direction redeposits the germs you just wiped up.
Instead, wipe down commonly touched surfaces such as desks, doorknobs, workstations, and countertops in one direction, and don't go back over it in the opposite direction.
2. Create a color-coded cleaning solution
To keep towels used in cleaning surfaces from ending up in the office kitchen, try color-coding your towels and cloths for specific spaces. Having a different color for towels from each specific area keeps cross contamination at bay.
3. Clean your cellphone
One study by Dscout reported that we touch our cellphones on average 2,000 times a day. Germs thrive on tech devices, so cleaning them off with some regularity is a best virus protection habit.
4. Post handwashing warnings
As obvious as it may seem, post handwashing signs in offices that remind employees to wash with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song).
Outside of the bathroom, the CDC says employees can wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent to 95 percent alcohol. Millsap also points out that it's important to thoroughly dry hands since germs spread with moisture.
Don't just spray and walk away
One warning: If you think you can just spray your way to health, consider this. Most common household disinfectants claim to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses, including human coronavirus, flu strains, E. coli, and salmonella, among others.
But whether they will work against this new coronavirus is as of yet undetermined. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says these disinfectants are "thought" to be effective against the new coronavirus strain, but until tests confirm it, consider it an open question.
As long as humans continue to gather together, managing exposure to viruses will remain a concern. While inoculations may provide the ultimate solution to specific diseases, in the meantime, these workplace best practices can help keep the bad bugs at bay.