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It would be wrong to say that COVID-19 is behind us. However, the situation is becoming increasingly optimistic as we look toward a recovery phase following the pandemic. Solutions such as clean rooms and sterile plastic containers are helping businesses protect health and safety, but companies will have to do more if they are to get their operations back on track.
Let’s take a look at the new approaches to sanitation and hygiene that will shape the post-COVID business landscape.
Wholesale shifts in business culture post-COVID
The ravages of COVID-19 have led to vast cultural changes right across the USA, and this has certainly been reflected in the world of business. Concerns over virus transmission have already had an impact on transactions, with 33% of small to medium-sized enterprises reporting reductions in cash transactions since COVID-19. Businesses run by millennials — or businesses in millennial-focused markets — have experienced the greatest change, with 41% saying they either handle fewer cash transactions or have stopped taking cash altogether.
Meanwhile, workplaces themselves are changing. Before COVID-19, 47% of workers said that they never worked remotely. Since widespread COVID infections became a serious concern, this number has fallen to 34%. The percentage of workers operating remotely for more than five days a week grew from 17% to 44%.
These figures are likely to shift back toward earlier rates of remote work as we proceed with COVID recovery. However, it looks likely that the new normal is here to stay to some extent — remote work has become a more viable option for many businesses and is something we will have to get used to.
Much of this is related to hygiene and sanitation. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, office spaces were dangerous breeding grounds for bacteria and pathogens, causing infections such as Influenza or the common cold to swiftly wreak havoc on organizations. A new frame for the hygiene debate has also led to concern regarding physical money. It is estimated that a $20 bill will change hands around 75 times a year, while for $1 or $5 bills, the number is more like 110 times. As $20 bills tend to remain in circulation for about 7.9 years on average, and $1 and $5 bills have an average lifespan of around 5.5 years, this represents a significant health risk for infectious diseases.
How this cultural change will impact industry
The above examples will not be relevant to all industries. Many businesses are engaged in manufacturing or materials handling and will not handle client-facing transactions. Similarly, many industrial organizations will not be in a position to introduce remote work on a broad scale — they simply need shop floor teams to be on-site in order to complete necessary tasks. Instead, the examples are provided to show how major cultural shifts are taking place across US business.
But how will cultural changes affect the hygiene and sanitation policies of industrial facilities? How will facility managers modify their business practices during the recovery phase?
- Hygiene best practices supported by the right solutions
Organizations now need to be serious about hygiene and sanitation. If they cannot prove to their employees, customers and other stakeholders that they are equipped to secure high levels of hygiene in the workplace, the business will suffer.
This means adopting a combination of theoretical best practices and physical solutions. For example, organizations may identify a need to maintain hygienic environments for handling key materials and products, and then support this with solutions such as clean rooms and sterile plastic containers.
- Increased focus on worker health and safety
Health and safety have long been an important part of operations in the United States’ industrial sector. In fact, there are a number of CDC and EPA regulations that ensure this. However, as we look toward the COVID-19 recovery phase, we can expect this focus to become even more acute.
As well as deploying the clean rooms and sterile procedure trays listed above, organizations will need to utilize a wide range of health and safety measures that meet the growing needs of the business. This may include comprehensive risk assessment procedures that give businesses the insight they need to maintain health and safety during periods of growth, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) that reduces the risk of infection. Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) and vaccination programs are also likely to feature in the new normal of doing business.
Organizations will need to factor these increased operational costs into their business plan. While health and safety are critical, it cannot come at a cost that hinders business growth. A viable trade-off will need to be found through highly effective budgeting.
- Forward-thinking approaches based on data
This idea of budgeting and forecasting will put data at the forefront of the COVID recovery process. Businesses will need to draw upon high levels of data-driven insight if they are to budget effectively for the future.
In fact, data is going to play an even more important role. Management will need to process and analyze up-to-the-minute COVID infection data, as well as other sources of insight, if they are to keep their organizations and teams safe. Businesses in many different industries are already turning to data as a way to increase the agility and resiliency of their organizations, and we can expect the pace of this shift to increase over the coming years.
- Reporting and operational transparency
Ethics is a key concern for modern businesses in the wake of COVID-19. Customers expect the businesses they work with to adopt responsible and sensible practices when it comes to hygiene and sanitation, and employees both expect and deserve to be protected as they return to work.
With this in mind, businesses will be expected to release reports and analyses of COVID risk and threat prevention. This atmosphere of transparency will foster trust and engagement — two elements that will be critical to business during recovery and beyond.
Prioritizing hygiene and sanitation in the workplace
Hygiene, sanitation, health and safety — these things are nothing new in industry. Nor are the sterile procedure trays and H&S best practices that support these. What is new is the culture of hygiene and sanitation that is characterizing the COVID-19 recovery phase. Organizations must prioritize this as they move forward with recovery.