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Covid-19 Office Coffee Etiquette
Covid-19 has changed our world. We now think about things we never really worried about, like the importance of social distancing, the frequency of handwashing, and what we touch. So, as we slowly start drifting back to our workplaces, what does this mean for the office environment and the way we work?
Well, your workplace will be a different place when you get back to it. Take social distancing as an example. Desks will need to be spaced out to ensure there is adequate distance between co-workers and meeting rooms may be limited to half the usual number of chairs.
Then there will be the move to videoconferencing as an alternative to physical travel, driven by both the need to save costs and to reduce the exposure of staff to the virus while travelling. The impact on airlines and hotels is going to be enormous!
Workplaces will also change in another critical area, and this may be the most disruptive change of all.
Covid-19 and surfaces – what’s the issue?
So, we’ll be spacing out and even travelling less to the office as we take on the tools of virtual meetings and networking, but one other thing we will be doing is taking a good hard look at sanitation within our workplaces.
Think about the hundreds of surfaces you touch each day in the office – many of them shared - the access control fingerprint sensor, the front-door handle, the elevator button, the file your colleague hands you as you head to your desk, the pen your colleague gives you to sign off that file, the water cooler tap, the photocopier button… and yes, the kettle or coffee machine.
What if someone with a Covid-19 infection just touched that surface before you? The World Health Organisation believes Covid-19 acts like other coronaviruses, and that means it can survive on surfaces for “some period.” “How long?” you ask…., and the answer is simply “we don’t know!”.
The Harvard Medical School suggests it can survive on some surfaces for up to 72 hours – that is five days! This is a challenge for workplaces and managers who need healthy staff. What can be done to minimise the presence of the virus?
Minimising Covid-19 exposure in the workplace
The experts may not all agree on the need for wearing a face mask, but all agree on one thing – frequent hand washing. Soap removes the fatty layer on your fingers and reduces the binding ability of the virus to your hands.
That, in turn, reduces the likelihood that if you touch your face, you will carry the virus to your face. Remember the only way in for this virus is through your mouth, nose and eyes!
Disinfecting will also be an essential activity moving forward – you’ll need to sanitise your hands when arriving at work and surfaces in the workplace will need to be sanitised far more frequently. That means every button you press will need to be disinfected and that you will have to remember to sanitise your hands after touching surfaces.
So how does this affect your office coffee?
For those in offices with kettles, it means you will still be filling the kettle, turning it on, pouring water out of it and of course reaching for the coffee jar, milk bottle and sugar spoon – just like normal right? Well since all of these are surfaces, your colleagues will also be touching… the simple act of making yourself a cup of life-sustaining coffee may also expose you to the not so pleasant virus! So how can you, as a manager or owner of a business, protect your staff?
This is where coffee machines can help, and it doesn’t matter what type of coffee machine your office has because there are benefits from using various types. The key here is that one member of staff is responsible for filling the coffee machine with water and coffee making ingredients. This person can wear gloves when doing this and can be trained in “hyper sanitary” filling and cleaning.
Take a typical coffee vending machine – the powdered milk, sugar and coffee are in the machine, and the water supply is connected directly to the mains water. All you do is come along, take a coffee mug (more about that below) and press the button to get your cup of coffee.
The same is true for the filter coffee machine, but there you’ll have to reach for the handle of the coffee jug, and the milk jug and the sugar spoon… but at least the coffee was placed in the machine along with the water, so a little less to touch.
If you have an office coffee machine that uses fresh milk, have the same person fill the milk container and keep it full. That way, you’ll just be touching one button.
Getting coffee without touching the coffee machine
Touching the button! Yes, just like with the photocopier, you’ll need to press a button if you want a coffee from a coffee vending machine and therein may lie your concern. That’s valid! So, what can you do? Very simply, press the button with a tissue or some other item that you have sanitised.
Alternatively, use your finger, but then immediately sanitise it. There should be a bottle of sanitiser next to every coffee machine. Disinfectant wipes can also be placed next to the machine, especially touch screen coffee machines – just wipe the screen before using it.
Then there is the coffee mug. Disposable mugs have merit, but the cost and environmental concerns may have you wanting to use ceramic mugs. If it is correctly washed in hot water and detergent, there is little chance of your ceramic mug becoming contaminated.
Try keeping your mug at your desk… that way, only you will be touching it. If it comes from a communal mug cupboard, ask staff to only touch and clean the mug they will use.
Bringing health to both staff and budget
Unless your business model was “economically bulletproof”, you’ll be facing cost pressures from an economy that has been struck by the Covid-19 pandemic. You and your colleagues in the office need to be at your best, and that means staying healthy!
A healthy staff that are functioning at full capacity can save businesses… and let’s face it … to ensure you reach that level…you could use a great cup of coffee to get there!
Covid-19 has changed our world, but it doesn’t have to rob us of the enjoyment of a cup of excellent office coffee while we push hard to keep it all together.
About the author
Steven Giddings is passionate about good coffee and making sure more office staff survive their long days by having access to great coffee. His coffee machine business has grown Frontier Coffee from a single machine to a company that serves over 500 companies, including well-known companies like Avis, HP and Netcare.
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