6 Important Empty-Office Practices While Employees are Out

During the holidays, many businesses close for a week or more. Empty offices are a holiday gift to facilities managers who schedule deep cleaning and maintenance projects. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, businesses are spending more on the safety and cleanliness of their workspaces. Eighty-three percent of companies surveyed invested more to clean their facilities in 2020.

Here are six facilities maintenance tasks to do while employees are away.

  1. Before the Break – Have Staff Declutter
  • Have employees clean their work areas so desks and equipment can be sanitized.
  • Remove food and storage containers from the refrigerator.
  • Remove clothing left in closets or lockers. Donate anything that isn’t claimed to charity.
  • Remove belongings from the floor under desks.
  • Do a walk-through with your janitorial company to identify issues to be repaired or replaced. Examples include painting, replacing ceiling tile and corner guards or repairing tile and grout.
  1. Schedule a Deep Cleaning

In a recent survey, 63 percent of businesses reported cleaning several times a day. More than one third, 34 percent, use a certified Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-approved cleaning company and a janitorial service. An additional 28 percent use CDC-approved cleaning products and methods. But an empty building calls for deep cleaning, not routine housekeeping.

  • Pathogen cleaning: contract with a cleaning service that specializes in cleaning, sterilization and decontamination.

Facility cleaning guidelines from the CDC include:

  • Cleaning: use soap or detergent and water to physically remove dirt and germs from surfaces
  • Disinfecting: use chemicals to kills germs on surfaces. Both cleaning and disinfecting are part of the CDC protocol. EPA-approved disinfectants will kill the coronavirus when used correctly.
  • Soft surfaces: clean rugs and drapes with soap and water or other appropriate cleaners, or launder.
  • Electronics: place a wipeable cover on keyboards. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning or use alcohol-based wipes containing at least 70 percent alcohol.  
  1. Schedule Preventive Maintenance
  • Check HVAC systems, buy replacement filters with the highest MERV Value (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) possible.
  • Work with an HVAC consultant to increase the percentage of outdoor air as much as possible.
  • Conduct preventive maintenance on equipment
  • Replace lighting with LED bulbs
  1. Things to do When the Facility is Empty
  • To prevent the growth of mold, keep humidity below 59 percent. After a shutdown, inspect buildings for mold and excess moisture before employees return.
  • Flush the water system before reopening as stagnant water in plumbing has a risk for the growth of bacteria.
  • To save energy, turn off equipment like fax machines, coffee makers and printers.
  • Reprogram thermostats to maintain minimum heating or cooling during the break.
  1. Update/Revise Floor Plan
  • Complete painting or decorating projects.
  • Review staffing patterns and adjust desk placement to keep workers at least six feet apart.
  • Set up conference rooms with chairs six feet apart. Remove extra chairs from the room.
  • Mark tight high traffic areas as one-way zones.
  • Install a plexiglass shield at the reception desk.
  • Remove seating from lobbies or areas where it is not possible to social distance.
  • Install signage to remind staff of new rules such as maximum occupancy for break rooms and conference rooms.
  1. Health and Safety Review
  • Make sure fire detection systems are up to date
  • Fire and emergency exits should be free from clutter. Check doors to make sure they open.
  • Make sure every fire extinguisher location has an extinguisher in place. All fire extinguishers should be tagged and charged.
  • Check inventory of wet floor signage and extra matting to prevent slips and falls

When offices close for a week or two for the holidays, facilities managers schedule cleaning, repairs and preventive maintenance on business equipment. Use these empty-office practices to get maximum impact from your projects during the holiday break.

Fabrizio VanMarcino