COVID-19 has put hygiene at the forefront of almost any conversation surrounding facilities and property management – it is no longer a passing complaint by a few fussy tenants, it’s an absolute necessity and, in some places, a government ordinance. As efforts to make spaces as safe and hygienic as possible have ramped up over the past months, facilities have taken a closer look at everything from the cleaning staff to the HVAC systems. Clearly, having a safe property is an all-encompassing endeavor, and touchless systems fulfill an important facet in the bigger picture of office hygiene. However, options can often seem endless, confusing, and expensive, leaving property management to ask why, where, and what?
The “why” can simply be summed up in one term: cross-contamination. Cross-contamination can be defined as the spread of germs or pathogens from one surface to another, typically through the process of touching multiple objects or surfaces. It is for this reason that handwashing is so critical. Every time we touch a soiled surface or object, we have likely become carriers of that contaminant and we are able to transmit it to whatever we touch next – our eyes, nose, the doorknob, a sink faucet and more. Working to avoid cross-contamination simply through our own personal practices can feel overwhelming. Touchless solutions have a great deal of help to offer us here simply through removing the need to touch an object or surface.
So where are these solutions needed? Well, ideally in as many places as possible. In a practical sense, it’s helpful to focus on areas that receive the most traffic. Common areas like breakrooms, restrooms, lobbies, and elevators tend to experience the most foot traffic within an office. Every office is different and heat mapping can also be helpful in understanding which areas experience the most traffic, particularly if your tenants are atypical, such as a call center open 24 hours a day. Breakrooms and restrooms are an area of special concern as tenants can linger in these spaces, are more likely to touch multiple surfaces, and, for breakrooms specifically, could be actively eating or drinking and therefore exposing themselves to whatever else they may have recently touched.
What do these solutions look like? They range from the obvious (no-touch faucets, soap, and towel dispensers) to the less so (germ-repelling paint and robotics). Again, the idea here is to remove the need for tenants to touch objects and surfaces, particularly in highly trafficked areas. If the budget for an EV emitting robot automating surface sanitation isn’t in the cards, not to worry – there are other cost effective and efficient solutions available to get started. Physical solutions and dispensing technology may be the lowest hanging fruit here. Doors, cabinets, and trash cans with foot-operated levers or pedals are a simple low-tech and low-cost solution. Similarly, if you work with a janitorial manufacturer (your distributor or cleaning contractor could connect you), they may be able to offer low or no cost dispensing solutions for your restroom. Automated towel and soap dispensers were becoming the new norm before COVID-19, but now they are often an expectation. Even “high-tech” options are attainable and affordable now, often through software solutions. For instance, smartphone applications can be used to hail your elevators and those touchless fixtures you already installed can be enabled with IoT software to provide more visibility, efficiency, data, and most importantly, on-demand water, soap, sanitizer, towels, and more – every single time.
Touchless technology is here to stay, and it’s able to do even more than help tenants reduce the risk of cross-contamination – it can instill a sense of confidence and safety, assuring tenants that every possible measure has been taken to protect their health. It’s hard to quantify peace of mind, but the benefits are many and often start with a tenant’s desire to safely get out of their home office and back into the workspace. The barriers to entry are low and many reasonably priced options are available to build a solid foundation of hygienic systems. With a bit of research and a quick assessment of your property’s traffic patterns, you’ll be able to find affordable, efficient, and valuable solutions to realize all the benefits of the touchless office.
Thank you to Georgia-Pacific for providing this educational content.