The problem of coronavirus outbreaks being more widespread in offices is “a two-fold problem”, according to a facilities manager.
Yesterday, Facilitate reported that data from Public Health England indicates that there were more outbreaks in offices compared with other workplaces over the current lockdown period.
The figures showed there were more than 60 suspected Covid outbreaks in offices in January this year. The data also showed there were more than 500 outbreaks, or suspected outbreaks in offices in the second half of 2020, which was more than in supermarkets, construction sites, warehouses, restaurants and cafes combined.
Simone Fenton-Jarvis, workplace services consultancy director at Ricoh, the multinational imaging and electronics company, told Facilitate: “This is a two-fold problem; people and behaviours and offices not being Covid-secure in the first place.
“Pre-pandemic, the bane of many facilities managers’ worlds was the HVAC. Many buildings have a poor standard of M&E and now we’re seeing the impact – the systems simply cannot cope with the extra demands being placed on it to increase and manage ventilation.”
Fenton-Jarvis said the third lockdown is “showing an increase in people choosing to not work from home but go to offices instead, often, and understandably, citing wellbeing issues such as ergonomics or loneliness”.
“Although these are certainly challenges for many, some are also becoming impatient and lackadaisical,” she added.
She said the solution would be a number of measures taken together but emphasised the importance of sensor technology. “I stress the need to utilise technology to remove human error when scheduling attendance, to help manage density, proximity and to support contact tracing. Sensors can also be crucial right now, measuring occupancy and air quality and directly feeding back to the building management system alongside feeding information to the cleaning team to ensure sanitisation is managed in line with usage. Ventilation, distance, cleanliness and reducing touchpoints are crucial.”