As we embrace the current pandemic, thinking inevitably turns to resumption of work and what that may look like. Received wisdom is that we must endeavour to avoid a rolling resumption and then cessation process. It is understandable that the scale of lockdown compels concern over the risk of recurrence and the potential impact of restarting business, only for it to be closed by a second outbreak.
As stories emerge from Wuhan that employers, landlords and tenants are testing their staff both for the infection and the antibody, the fear of a re-emergence of COVID-19 is clearly driving government, corporate and personal behaviours. Workers queued for some time to be tested, indicating a willingness to demonstrate they are free of the virus. The private sector provided medical and laboratory testing processes in an effort to establish a restart that would prove permanent, demonstrating a degree of preparedness. Wuhan’s reopening is being watched across the globe for valuable lessons on how resumption of normal life after a lockdown is possible.
While privacy matters may make such serious steps difficult in the UK, whatever actions businesses may take to facilitate a return to work, they will face a returning workforce who whilst eager to return, will have deep rooted concerns and this may deliver a new degree of scepticism, or nervousness, in their perception of a ‘safe’ workplace.
It is highly likely that any resumption will come with very clear government guidance and sanctions on any perceived recurrence of infection. There may be a traffic light system applied to the resumption of the ‘new normal’ and whatever the stages of various industries, it is clear that cleaning will be in the vanguard of resumption. Restrictions may be lifted and reapplied on a targeted basis and we foresee social distancing becoming the norm and maintained across society, support services and the workplace, with alternative occupation phases and shift patterns in use. Expect to see the social distancing techniques demonstrated in supermarkets appearing across the corporate landscape.
For your support service partner, a phased return to work may present staffing and potential employment challenges in selection and extraction from furlough, especially in any staggered return process. Careful consideration should be taken in conjunction with your service partner on how this is achieved, supported by appropriate planning.
Customers across the business community should be prepared for the presence of support staff operating in enhanced PPE for some considerable time. Over time, uniforms will be reassessed to incorporate the practicalities of long-term PPE use and the pressure on the already overstretched supply chain will only increase. Waste regimes will see enhanced demand from contaminated waste streams, as widespread virus protection becomes the norm.
Cleaning regimes will be reinforced, with improvements in specification and crucially testing and we will see an increase in profile for professional cleaning organisations. The interim high-traffic, high-touchpoint cleaning currently being operated will be integrated into daily cleaning regimes, with periodic empirical testing providing the evidence of compliance. We foresee a greater role for day support staff and an increase in the ability to react quickly and thoroughly to emerging hygiene issues, of any type. Deep cleaning will be integrated into PPM regimes, initially with high frequency and reducing over time, but some form of sanitisation service will be a regular planned event.
At the heart of this will be the basic concern of cleanliness, and careful building remobilisation will have to be supported by a detailed schedule of pre-occupation cleaning activities and those that will apply during the ‘new’ occupation.
These can be supported by a number of simple steps:
- Working with service partners, develop a clear remobilisation plan. Allow time for management and frontline restart, which in an ideal world, would be staggered.
- Confirm that the cleaning methodologies meets the appropriate public health authority standards and guidance. NJC can provide a proforma questionnaire to establish the boundaries of the ‘new normal’ to deliver a bespoke, targeted cleaning service.
- Ensure that supply chain partners are ready and that robust, sustainable stock management is in place. Global daily use of PPE will create unprecedented demand.
- Ensure that returning cleaning management and support staff are inducted into the ‘new normal’ ahead of service requirements and they understand both the precautions, methods, products and outcomes, and if necessary, can explain their actions to the internal customer. Managing perception and helping to provide peace of mind will be a major task during early stages of return.
- Review all RAMS so they underpin the ‘new normal’ and capture changes in process and outcomes.
- Carry out an appropriate decontamination of the workplace based upon the actual site risk assessment. This may range from full decontamination cleans and targeted deep cleans, to sparkle cleans and normal service.
- Hold regular briefing sessions with support staff, such that they know how to respond to customer concerns and how they will deal with the inevitable calls for further cleaning, including specialist cleaning support.
Having a cleaning provider who has the expertise, depth of pre-planning and directly employed capability to fulfil all of you requirements, be that daily cleaning, decontamination/ disinfection cleans, remobilisation sparkle cleans or provision of hygiene consumables is likely to make the return to work journey significantly more straightforward and efficient.
We have started planning for the ‘new normal’ and whilst we cannot accurately predict the boundaries of this normality, what is certain is that clean environments, social distancing, specialist capabilities and service provider agility will be the foundation of the service. We are planning to induct all returning staff and to refresh our regular customer service training. We will be alert and empathetic to concerns, in the knowledge of our ability to react quickly with a scale and depth of capability, supported by significant specialist services.
NJC is fortunate to have a very large Specialist Cleaning Division and the team has been at the heart of rapid response decontamination and deep cleaning since the crisis started. Our Coronavirus Cleaning teams have absorbed direct practical knowledge of dealing with the occupational risks of COVID-19, facilitating the development of good practice. We have very experienced management and our advanced planning means that we are ready to support existing and new customers with their restart planning and to provide ongoing support.
Working practises have probably changed forever and we are committed to ensuring that clean and safe environments are very firmly at the heart of the new normal. We believe that we have already demonstrated that we are prepared to go the extra mile to keep our colleagues, customers and communities safe.