How best to reduce the spread of viruses in the office

Considering recent news indicating that bird flu outbreaks can spread between humans, plus the potential threat of a ‘twin-demic’ between COVID and influenza, awareness about viral infections has once again increased across the UK. KJ Refrigeration discusses how to reduce the spread of airborne viruses at work.

One in 37 people in the UK has Coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) at the start of October. The term ‘twindemic’ refers to the possibility that an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 may coincide with an increase in seasonal influenza that is commonly spread in office environments during the winter months. Even though people catch bird flu by close contact with birds or bird droppings, introducing fresh air to an office environment will reassure workers and reduce the risk of spreading other air-transmitted viruses and bacteria.

By directly touching hands, contaminated surfaces, and the mouth, eyes, and/or nose at work, human viruses are spread. The germs can also be spread through coughing and sneezing, touching surfaces, and close contact. Additionally, germs can be transmitted by droppings that settle on any surface and cause contamination while employees stay at their desks for long periods of time.

Due to the cold air outside, viruses, including COVID-19, spread more easily in offices with closed windows as the temperature drops around the United Kingdom. Increasing airflow and providing effective ventilation, air-conditioning, and HVAC units that are well-maintained can reduce the spread of the virus. While it doesn't affect the spread of viruses through contact between people, it does prevent them from spreading through droplets. Social distancing and masks will still be required, as will regular cleaning of surfaces that employees encounter. When an air-conditioning unit is used in an office, the risk of spreading the virus through aerosols is greatly reduced.

Employees can also be more productive in a workplace with air conditioning, whether floor-mounted or central. Despite its original purpose of cooling machinery, commercial air conditioning quickly became a breakthrough innovation that brought great benefits to businesses, as workers flocked to air-conditioned offices. In the 1950s, researchers discovered that office workers and factory workers who worked in commercially conditioned offices and factories were more productive. The use of commercial air conditioning offers additional health benefits to workers in different areas of the workplace, such as offices and factories, in addition to providing comfort. Even one day without commercial air conditioning can negatively impact your business' productivity, leading to frustration, stress, and fatigue. A good air conditioning unit does more than cool an office in the summer, it also keeps fresh air flowing through the workplace when more workers come back to work in the winter to stay warm.

Workers ages 30 to 49 years were the most likely to report hybrid working on 27 April to 8 May 2022, with 29 per cent reporting doing so, showing that younger and older workers have a greater likelihood of returning to the workplace. Mixing ages and lifestyles in the workplace increase the risk of virus transmission and therefore increases absenteeism levels among workers. Fresh air circulated in the workplace reduces these risks.

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