tips on preventing infectious disease spread at your office

Protect Your Office From the Risk of Infectious Disease — Starting in the Lobby

The recent threat of COVID-19 has everyone focused on preventing the spread of disease, both at work and at home.

However, practices like thorough and frequent handwashing and refraining from face-touching have benefits that aren’t limited to the new coronavirus. After all, viruses and other infectious diseases such as the flu have long been to blame for hurting productivity in the office, especially during winter months. 

Although the recent global health crisis certainly warrants extra care and attention when it comes to sanitation, it’s a good idea to adopt some best sanitation practices for your office year-round moving forward.

For those of us who work in offices, this means paying special attention to the role that the front desk or office lobby plays in disease prevention.

These spaces are the gateways to the rest of the workplace. They can play an important role in limiting who comes inside the office, as well as reminding everyone who passes through of their responsibilities when it comes to sanitation. 

Here are several ways your front desk and check-in process can keep your office healthier.

Add virus-prevention tactics to your visitor agreement 

Verbal encouragement to cancel meetings and stay home when employees or meeting participants are sick can be helpful. However, when viral threats are especially high, employers can take an extra step to enforce these rules. Namely, they can have all office visitors agree to a written statement that they aren’t exhibiting signs of illness, and haven’t experienced any other increased risk factors within a specified time period. 

We recently wrote an entire post on how to modify your visitor agreement to reduce the coronavirus risk to your office, and we recommended creating a screen in the check-in process like the one below:

Receptionist for iPad users can choose to make this screen and agreement mandatory for all office visitors, even those who have checked in recently. It will automatically cancel the check-in process if the visitor doesn’t agree to the terms — and you can customize each screen of the process.

Clean and disinfect the visitor check-in area regularly 

Most offices require guests to check-in at the front desk for safety and security purposes. However, when every visitor coming through the office — from the meal delivery service to job interviewees — reaches for the same sign-in clipboard or digital tablet, the disease can spread quickly.

To prevent the spread of disease, all high-touch areas in the lobby must be regularly cleaned and disinfected. During peak infection times, this can even be done after each visitor check-in.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control has a helpful page instructing best practices for sanitation in light of the new coronavirus. 

CDC suggestions include:

  • Wearing dedicated or disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces (disposable gloves are especially called for when an area has definitely been exposed to an infectious virus). 
  • Cleaning dirty surfaces with detergent or soap and water.
  • Using diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants for disinfection (paying attention to the products’ usage instructions and expiration dates).
  • Washing soft surfaces (such as rugs and drapes) in the hottest water possible and drying them completely, or using a product approved by the EPA for emerging viral pathogens from porous surfaces.
  • Cleaning hands immediately after gloves are removed.
  • Those tactics will work fine for the reception desk and most of the lobby area, but you’ll have to be a bit more careful with electronics. 

Apple’s official cleaning guidelines suggest cleaning their products with a soft cloth, then gently wiping the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipe to disinfect. Bleach can damage the devices, and any moisture can also damage or even destroy electronics — and that includes disinfectant sprays.

Cultivate a culture of handwashing and sanitizing

It’s much more difficult for diseases to spread when we all keep our hands clean. 

If you want to encourage people to keep their hands clean while they’re in the office, make it clear as soon as visitors first walk in that it’s a priority. Place hand sanitizer prominently near the visitor check-in station and instruct your front lobby staff to offer hand sanitizer to all visitors, and employees too.

You can also use the visitor agreement or visitor check-in pages to remind everyone to observe proper handwashing techniques and refrain from shaking hands. With The Receptionist for iPad, you can even insert videos into the check-in process demonstrating best practices for handwashing, appropriate greetings, and social distancing techniques.  

Track visitor activities

If someone who has visited your office later ends up being diagnosed with coronavirus or another contagious disease, it can help to know exactly what they did and who they met with while they were on-site. 

You can get this data quickly with the help of a visitor check-in app. Visitor management systems like The Receptionist allow users to add custom fields in the visitor check-out process.

For example, some employers may ask visitors to indicate upon check-out whether they had person-to-person contact with anyone during their visit. 

Minimize meetings, office visits, and in-office work 

Limiting exposure to any infectious disease requires limiting employees’ contact with people who have already been infected. For that reason, stemming the flow of people in and out of your facility can go a long way toward keeping employees healthier. 

Group work, collaboration, and community partnerships are a big part of many employers’ workplace cultures. However, during the times of year when infectious diseases are peaking, it can help to limit any nonessential travel, meetings, and visits.

Managers should remind employees that they must stay home if they aren’t feeling well. They can also advise employees to reschedule office visits if visitors show any signs of illness. 

Managers and company leaders can also remind employees to take advantage of the company’s remote work policy if there is one. In fact, if your company does not have a remote work policy yet, now might be a good time to put one in place. Although remote options won’t be possible for every type of job, remote work is a trend that continues to gain popularity year over year. Employees increasingly seek it out as a job perk, and technology has made it increasingly easy for employees to communicate and meet via their computers.

All of these efforts reduce traffic in the office, and you can even post signs in the lobby reminding employees of these policies as they pass through.

Related post: The Receptionist’s Stance on Working Remotely

The importance of office gatekeepers

We have long sung the praises of front desk staff and administrators, whose roles these days often go well beyond the traditional filing and routing phone calls. 

Beyond their traditional duties, many of today’s front office staff are taking on leadership roles in brand advocacy, physical security, and office emergency response. Now, many will add disease prevention to their list of important responsibilities. 

Many of today’s front office staff are adding disease prevention to their list of important responsibilities.

If we all do our part to observe these simple best practices together, we can continue to keep our employees and our communities as safe as possible.