Post-COVID, How to Prepare Your Office for A Healthy Return to Work
Many employers are preparing to reopen their offices after employees have been working remotely for the past 15 +/- months. In addition to preparing for new cleaning, health, and safety protocols and updating policies and work-from-home procedures, you should stop for a moment and consider the environmental state of the office you will be returning to.
With offices largely unused for long periods of time, there may have been little or no good air circulation. If so, the office may be harboring mold and poor indoor air quality.
“We’re seeing offices, schools, and other facilities with significant mold issues says Robert Weitz, principal of RTK Environmental. “In cases where companies turned off air conditioning or increased the indoor temperature, stagnant air and humidity may have begun to create major mold problems.” Weitz said in those cases, the cleanup might come with a hefty price tag. “Most offices will not have such significant damage, but you should still take precautions for your own health and safety as well as that of your employees,” he says.
Mold in Offices
Mold is a serious health hazard that should not be taken lightly. Mold causes breathing difficulties, allergies, fatigue, rashes, lower productivity, and more. With offices being shut for many months, moist conditions might have contributed to the growth of mold colonies in refrigerators, carpeting, HVAC systems, and may be widespread behind walls. Before you return to the office, it pays to have a mold test.
Indoor Air Quality in Offices
Poor indoor air quality is caused by mold, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust, and other contaminants. It can cause headaches, fatigue and listlessness, dizziness, nausea, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating, among other issues. And, if you have new office equipment, carpeting, flooring, or furniture, you may have elevated VOCs, as these materials tend to off-gas toxins.
Here are some important areas to check:
Whether you turned off your HVAC system or not, you should at the get go change the filters, as dust and debris are likely to have taken up residence there. Worse, the HVAC system may be harboring mold. During summer months, condensation, which can cause mold growth, often occurs in HVAC units and associated ducting. Once the heat is turned on, microscopic mold spores can easily spread through ductwork. The spores can contaminate clean spaces anywhere in the building. The safest bet is to test your indoor air.
Many people are returning to work to find mold growing in their refrigerators. This can usually be cleaned with bleach or an anti-fungal product. You may also spot water stains on the carpeting, meaning that the refrigerator leaked during the closure. If that is the case, you may have a mold problem that goes deeper than the fridge.
Carpets and Ceilings
If you notice water staining on ceilings or carpets, there was likely significant water intrusion. Burst pipes and leaks may have gone unnoticed. Mold may be growing in places you cannot see. But you won’t know that unless you test.
Computers and Office Equipment
Dust and debris are likely everywhere on your computers, keyboards, copiers, and other office machines. Be sure to dust and vacuum your equipment thoroughly so that you don’t release any extra irritants into the air once the machines are back in use.
Check for water staining under sinks, as there may have been a leak in the pipes, which would cause mold growth.
Before you reopen the office, have a mold and indoor air quality test. Not only does it show your employees that you care and are taking safety guidelines seriously, but it will protect the health of your employees, leading to a more productive workforce. Call us at 800.392.6468 to schedule a test.