Here’s an Office Cleaning Checklist for the Coronavirus Outbreak

We are currently living through unprecedented times as the spread of COVID-19 affects individuals and businesses across the globe. While most businesses, with the exception of essential industries, have shifted to working from home, it’s more important than ever to have an office cleaning checklist to keep employees who do have to go into work safe and healthy.

Beyond the coronavirus pandemic, you should always keep your workspace as clean as possible to create a positive work environment—this extends to home workspaces, as well. Most companies will want to hire a professional to handle this task, but individuals can and should be involved in the cleaning process too.

Keep reading to learn more about implementing an office cleaning checklist to help you disinfect your office space and better protect your employees.

Follow CDC and WHO Guidelines

The most important thing to keep in mind at this time is to follow the CDC guidelines to protect yourself and others. The best thing you can do is practice social distancing and home isolation. If you and your employees don’t need to work from the office, don’t. Stay home. 

There are a number of benefits of letting your employees work remotely, but the most important one right now is keeping as many people healthy as possible. The situation surrounding COVID-19 is rapidly changing, so be sure to check the CDC and WHO websites to stay on top of any developments. 

Office Cleaning Checklist

This is an unprecedented time across the world. Most countries are adopting travel restrictions, closing borders, and even asking residents to shelter in place. Many areas are closing all nonessential businesses.

If you are an essential business and have to remain open, there are a number of steps you should take to protect your employees and yourself from getting sick and spreading germs to others.

1. Clean Light Switches and Door Handles

Some of the most common touchpoints for people moving around a space are the light switches and door handles. To lower the risk of germ sharing, wipe down door handles and light switches at least twice a day, if not more. Consider doing this every hour if possible.

Also consider propping doors open and keeping lights on to reduce the frequency with which these areas are touched. 

2. Disinfect Other Common Touchpoints

Use disinfectant on other common touchpoints and provide employees access to disinfectant so they can keep their personal workspaces clean. Common touchpoints to disinfect include:

  • Keyboards
  • Mouse
  • Desk phones
  • Computer monitors
  • Buttons, switches, or handles
  • Desktops

Essentially, any hard surface should be cleaned at least on a daily basis.

3. Keep Kitchens Clean

Any high-traffic area should be disinfected regularly—this is especially important during the COVID-19 outbreak but is a practice your office should employ at all times. If you have a communal office kitchen, all surfaces in this area should be cleaned at least twice a day if not hourly.

High-touch surfaces such as door handles, refrigerator handles and drawers, faucets, coffee maker, water fountain, and any shared containers should be cleaned regularly. Consider eliminating any shared items like condiments, and if you have a sponge for employees to wash their own dishes, consider removing this as well and encourage employees to wait to wash their personal dishes at home.

4. Clean Bathrooms

While bathrooms should always be cleaned daily, you should increase bathroom cleanings to twice a day or more during this outbreak. At the very least, disinfect all high-touch areas such as door locks, faucets, soap dispensers, and door handles as often as possible.

5. Limit Employees Present

While many cities have begun to close all nonessential businesses, some remain open and business as usual. If you’re a nonessential business or have employees who can work from home, consider adopting those policies now. 

If you are still operating in an office or physical space, limit the number of external people you allow in your business. Move as many meetings to video conferences as possible to limit the number of people you and your team come into contact with. Even small adjustments can make a difference in reducing exposure and flattening the curve for everyone.[1]

Individual Preventive Measures

There are many steps that business owners can take to keep their office spaces clean, but maintaining a clean environment is something we all take part in. There are a number of small steps that each individual employee can take to keep everyone safe and healthy.

1. Wash Hands 

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.[2] It’s also important to make sure you get each finger, underneath your fingernails, and the backs of your hands.

2. Don’t Shake Hands

As part of social distancing, any unnecessary physical contact between people should be avoided. To maintain physical distance from others, skip the handshake and instead go for an elbow bump or foot tap. Even better, a simple wave is any easy, no-contact greeting or goodbye.

3. Use Hand Sanitizer

When you don’t have access to soap and water, you can eliminate germs from your hands with hand sanitizer. As with hand washing, hand sanitizer must be used properly to work effectively. Hand sanitizer should be alcohol-based, with at least 60% alcohol. You want to rub the sanitizer on your hands, covering all surfaces, until they’re dry (about 20 seconds). 

4. Cough and Sneeze Into Elbow

One of the best ways to protect others from your germs is to cough and sneeze into your elbow. This keeps the germs off your hands and away from others. Coughing and sneezing can spread saliva droplets between 20 and 25 feet away from your body, which can remain in the air for up to 10 minutes.[3] 

5. Don’t Touch Your Face

While most of us unconsciously touch our faces multiple times an hour, it’s important to break this habit. Your hands touch a lot of different surfaces throughout the day and each time you touch your face you’re introducing those germs to your mouth, nose, and eyes. 

6. Clean Your Cell Phone

What’s the most touched object in your life? Your phone. The average person touches their phone over 2,500 times a day.[4] And our phones go everywhere with us, meaning they pick up a lot of germs.

Germs can remain on plastic and glass for hours or days. So each time you touch your phone, you’re touching germs. You should always clean your phone, but it’s especially important to be aware of now. Wipe it down with a Clorox wipe or rag with a high-alcohol-content cleaning solution. But be careful to not get ports or microphones wet, as this could damage your phone.

7. Practice Social Distancing

When we talk, eat, cough, or sneeze, we spray saliva droplets. That can be enough to share germs with someone standing nearby. Standing more than six feet apart can help limit the amount of germs spread.

8. Stay Home and Away From Others

The best thing an individual can do to not spread their germs is to stay home when they’re not feeling well. Isolating yourself from others will reduce the ability of your illness to spread to others.

During this time, governments are asking people to shelter in place and to self-isolate. This is because someone can show no symptoms while spreading the disease to others. Some people who test positive for COVID-19 show no initial symptoms and others never show symptoms. Being asymptomatic doesn’t mean these virus carriers can’t spread the disease, which is why social distancing and staying home are so important.

How to Properly Disinfect Surfaces

Knowing what to clean is important, but so is knowing how to clean it. While we’re still learning details about COVID-19, scientists have some understanding of how long the virus and similar viruses can survive on different types of surfaces. 

Depending on the surface, you’ll need to take different steps to thoroughly clean and disinfect it.

1. Hard Surfaces

It is thought that coronaviruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to nine days unless properly disinfected.[5]

The best way to know how to disinfect hard surfaces is to read the instructions of your cleaning agent. Some cleaning products can be used as both a cleaner and a disinfectant but will require different procedures. Most disinfectants must stand wet on a surface for three to five minutes to remove all the germs.

If you don’t have a disinfectant, you can create your own with a diluted bleach solution or alcohol solution that’s at least 70% alcohol. For store-bought cleaners, make sure it’s EPA registered as a disinfectant. 

2. Clothing and Fabric

Rough or cloth surfaces aren’t particularly hospitable to viruses, making it difficult for them to survive long on these types of surfaces. However, if you know you’ve been exposed to someone who is sick, immediately wash clothes and fabrics that came into contact with that person.[6] When washing fabrics, use the warmest possible temperature of water that the fabrics can stand. Consult your clothes’ care labels to determine which temperatures are best.

3. Understand the Terms

The terminology around cleaning can be confusing, especially when it is so important to kill germs and limit exposure to this virus. It’s important to understand the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

Cleaning

Cleaning removes dirt and germs from a surface. While cleaning with soap and water will remove dirt and most germs, it doesn’t get all of them. Before disinfecting a surface, you should clean it to remove any excess particles, grease, or dirt.

Disinfecting

Disinfecting kills germs. Disinfectant chemicals include bleach, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide. When diluted and used according to instructions, these products can remove all germs from hard surfaces. Most disinfecting products must remain wet on a surface for three to five minutes. For best results, follow the instructions on the product packaging.

Sanitizing

Sanitizing is an alternative to disinfecting, but it kills fewer germs. Sanitizing lowers the risk of spreading germs, but not as well as disinfecting. Like disinfecting, if you’re using a sanitizer, it’s crucial that you read the label and follow instructions exactly. Disinfecting a surface generally requires more work.

Routine Cleaning Tasks to Maintain

While it’s important to increase your cleaning and disinfecting while we’re dealing with the global spread of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean you can ignore your routine cleaning tasks. Make sure you’re incorporating these cleaning practices on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

1. Daily Cleaning Tasks

Each day, you should be cleaning high-touch surfaces and bathrooms. Additionally, you’ll need to:

  • Take out the trash
  • Vacuum and/or mop
  • Clean glass surfaces
  • Restock bathroom supplies

2. Weekly Cleaning Tasks

These cleaning tasks don’t need to be done daily, but shouldn’t be done too infrequently:

  • Clean trash cans
  • Dust
  • Wipe away cobwebs
  • Disinfect individual high-touch areas and equipment such as keyboards and desk phones
  • Clean kitchen appliances

3. Monthly Cleaning Tasks

In addition to daily and weekly cleaning tasks, you should tackle a deeper clean every month or so, including:

  • Clean walls and painted surfaces
  • Vacuum chairs and upholstery
  • Change air filters
  • Clean window coverings
  • Clean out the fridge, freezer, and other food supplies

The Bottom Line

While most office spaces and businesses employ a professional cleaning staff or have employees do routine cleaning tasks, during a pandemic such as the one we’re experiencing now, those tasks become even more important. For businesses that can’t close because they’re considered essential to the economy and other’s well-being, keeping spaces clean and high-touch areas disinfected can help to lessen the spread of COVID-19. 

Article Sources:

  1. NYTimes.com. “Flattening the Coronavirus Curve
  2. CDC.gov. “When and How to Wash Your Hands
  3. ScienceFocus.com. “How Far do Coughs and Sneezes Travel?
  4. BusinessInsider.com. “Here’s How Many Times We Touch Our Phones Everyday
  5. BBC.com. “COVID-19: How Long to the Coronavirus Last on Surfaces?
  6. NPR.org. “The New Coronavirus Can Live on Surfaces for 2-3 Days – Here’s How We Clean Them

Christine Aebischer

Christine Aebischer is an editor at Fundera.

Prior to Fundera, Christine was an editor at the financial planning startup LearnVest and its parent company, Northwestern Mutual. There she wrote and edited on topics such as debt, budgeting, insurance, taxes, investing, and retirement. She has written for print and online on topics ranging from personal finance to luxury real estate.

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