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Hygiene Anxiety – 44 Per Cent Of Workers Are Worried About Office Cleanliness

Hygiene Anxiety – 44 Per Cent Of Workers Are Worried About Office Cleanliness
17 June 2020 | Updated 02 July 2020

Research by IWFM shows that many UK employees are concerned about the health implications of returning to offices post-lockdown.

The YouGov poll of 404 office staff members working from home, commissioned by IWFM, reveals that over a third (34 per cent) are concerned about getting used to a corporate office culture again after the lockdown. 

As lockdown measures begin to ease, many are concerned about going back to the office - with worries rife over being able to maintain social distancing (59 per cent) and appropriate hygiene and cleaning standards (44 per cent). 


“Workplace and facilities managers hold the key both to preparing buildings ready for reoccupation within new limits and to helping their organisations adjust to a new set of operating norms.” 

– Chris Moriarty

Director of Insight, Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management 


Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management says “There are Wider Challenges at Play”


Chris Moriarty, Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management commented on the research:  

“As lockdown measures begin to ease, government and business attention is turning to the mammoth task of how, and when, to get employees across the UK safely back to work. Ensuring cleanliness and distance between colleagues will be high on the agenda – as will managing the implications of a workforce coming out of lockdown under increased levels of stress and anxiety. 

'Yet there are wider challenges at play – it would be naïve to assume that ‘business as usual’ will look the same post-crisis, and many are considering the long-term implications of this national experiment in home working.  Businesses looking to cut costs, or respond to increased employee demand for flexible working, need also consider the implications to the nation’s productivity of allowing employees to work from home without investing in an adequate home-working environment.  

Moriarty continued: “The key thing is that businesses are mindful not to treat home versus office working as a binary choice but part of a strategic approach to support work wherever it can best take place. 

“They should look to strike a balance between providing compelling reasons to return to a corporate space with flexible working policies and an investment in supporting a productive home-working setup.” 


The Role Of Technology In Increasing Confidence


Richard Morris, Director at technologywithin, an IT services provider in the flexible workspace and commercial real estate sectors, suggests that contactless technology could offer a significant means of keeping office buildings safe. This may in turn help to ease COVID-19 anxiety amongst returning employees:

“Contactless sensor technology, for example, can help to not only eliminate high-frequency touchpoints, such as door handles and lift buttons, but can also detect and manage building density to ensure that spaces are not becoming overcrowded. This technology can further draw on the data collected to make recommendations about footfall routing, which rooms to use and can even provide alerts to maximise user safety.”


“Used correctly and alongside other appropriate health and hygiene precautions post-COVID-19, these technologies can significantly ease any anxieties about returning to work."

–Richard Morris

Director, technologywithin


Morris also notes that, aside from helping to build up confidence in the workforce, the use of this type of technology has further benefits:

“Embracing these capabilities brings long term benefits beyond just keeping workers safe in the immediate wake of COVID-19.  This sophisticated software can also draw on the same motion sensor technology to switch air conditioning or lighting on and off as and when an occupant is using or leaving a space. So, contactless capabilities not only mean a safer building, but also a more efficient one.

“Used correctly and alongside other appropriate health and hygiene precautions post-COVID-19, these technologies can significantly ease any anxieties about returning to work."


Communication Of Hygiene Standards Via Live Digital Signage 


Raj Krishnamurthy, CEO of Freespace by Workplace Fabric, who implements various occupancy-based cleaning solutions for businesses, believes that the behavioural transition from home working to the office can be helped along by a targeted, on-demand approach.

Freespace’s technology automates communication of hygiene standards via live digital signage to increase employee reassurance and dispel the heightened fear of non-sanitised workplaces. 

How does this work? A cleaning operative would use a handheld Cleanreader to scan the desk or meeting room tag which digitally marks it as cleaned, releasing the space back into the availability pool. Digital signage showing space availability is then automatically updated.



Picture: A example of how the Cleanreader will work, showing a screenshot of the interface alongside QR code desk tags


Krishnamurthy explains how this could help combat hygiene anxiety:

“The Cleanreader has been developed to support businesses with these complexities and to help alleviate any anxieties and concerns surrounding hygiene as people gradually head back to work. However, simply increasing cleaning frequencies isn't going to be enough and will put too much strain on resources. A more targeted and on-demand approach is required.

“There is an opportunity to dynamically target cleaning activities around actual usage and occupancy. We hope our solution will help FM and cleaning teams maximise the availability of the reduced building capacities throughout the day, as well as support the back-to-work behavioural transition.”

Picture: A photograph of an office desk, being cleaned. A gloved hand and cloth is visible, wiping the desk

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 17 June 2020


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