— By Fabio Vitali —
Protecting your brand in a precarious time.
As businesses open their doors following COVID-19-related closures, they face a range of new challenges. From sourcing essential supplies and meeting the increased demand for cleaning to adjusting building capacities and employee schedules, businesses will need to adapt to new standards while protecting their brand image. Three elements — hand hygiene, clean surfaces and environmental responsibility — can all support brand protection during a delicate reopening process, because they all reduce risk in some way.
In Good Hands
To make sure employees and visitors feel like they are in good hands, providing everything they need for proper and frequent hand hygiene is crucial. Here are steps businesses should take:
- Consider enhancing hygiene with additional products. The new normal will require businesses to make guests and employees more comfortable in their facilities with a greater focus on hygiene. Companies should implement new cleaning protocols to address this need.
Restaurants may ask waiters and kitchen staff to wear masks, and offices may require visitors to do that same. Facilities like airports and hotels can consider offering single-use sanitizing wipes, antibacterial wipes or other highly effective sanitizing products. A must-have new product is the so-called door tissue: to reduce touch points in facilities, businesses can install door tissue and a garbage bin near elevator panels, door handles and other high-touch surfaces so visitors or guests can securely protect themselves.
- Stock paper towels, toilet paper and soap. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages frequent soap-and-water handwashing for at least 20 seconds, especially after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. To meet the need for occupants to wash hands more often, facility managers maintain a consistent stock of hand soap and paper towels in restrooms and kitchens.
Because wet hands can attract unwanted microbes, hand-drying is also vital. The most effective method is with paper towels since the friction from using a paper towel helps remove more germs than handwashing alone. Therefore, facilities should carefully weigh whether paper towels or jet air dryers are better for this new era of cleanliness. For facilities that opt for paper towels, managers can consider dispensers made from antibacterial plastic that add another layer of protection from pathogens.
- Install hand sanitizer stations. In addition to making effective handwashing easy in restrooms and kitchens, businesses should strategically install hand sanitizer dispensers. This helps patrons reduce the spread of germs throughout the facility and offers added assurance that your business is prioritizing health and safety. Make sure to use a product with at least 60% alcohol, as recommended by the CDC. Consider placing automatic dispensers at entrances, exits, corridors or break rooms that see the most foot traffic.
Research shows improved handwashing can curb the spread of infectious disease, especially in public facilities. One study at MIT found increased handwashing at just 10 major airports could decrease the risk of a global pandemic by as much as 37%. In short, facilities should prioritize hand hygiene to support occupant and employee health.
The CDC and other authorities have been urging businesses and those in quarantine to clean and disinfect surfaces frequently to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Therefore, the public is increasingly attuned to the key role of these processes. Before businesses open after a hiatus, they should conduct a thorough cleaning, create a plan for maintaining the building each day and stock the appropriate solutions.
In restrooms, cleanliness should always be a top priority. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, customers cared about the state of restrooms. For example, a survey found 60% of Americans decide to visit specific businesses because of their clean, well-maintained restrooms. Implementing a new maintenance schedule can help facilities meet customers’ expectations of their restrooms. Meanwhile, managers should train staff to respond quickly to lapses in cleanliness, such as clogged toilets. Clogs are unsightly, cause odors and 86% of Americans say a clogged toilet would negatively impact their perception of a brand.
Addressing restrooms is critical, but it is not enough. Businesses should frequently clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces throughout the facility. A few examples include door handles, check-in and customer service counters, elevator buttons and credit card payment terminals. Employees should clean first and disinfect second, as pathogens can hide underneath stubborn soils that only an effective cleaner can remove.
At first glance, COVID-19 and climate change may seem like disconnected topics. However, as the World Economic Forum points out, studies show climate change-fueled phenomena including deforestation and loss of wildlife lead to increased infectious disease — in other words, global warming and increased disease are not unrelated. Climate change and environmental degradation aren’t going away, but the pandemic — by forcing countless greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles off the streets and out of the skies — has revealed glimmers of hope environmentally. Businesses can show they haven’t forgotten to take their environmental responsibility seriously by integrating it into their reopening plans.
Before the pandemic, a survey showed 77% of Americans would prefer to purchase from brands who prioritize efforts to fight global warming over those that do not. This growing concern on the part of consumers will not simply dissipate after COVID-19’s impact lessens. Businesses can protect their brand image by selecting products that minimize environmental impact. These include absorbent paper towels, toilet paper and napkins that can help reduce paper waste.
Additionally, there are innovative toilet tissue options designed to dissolve after being flushed, reducing the risk of clogs and helping keep pipes clean. This helps limit the use of environmentally harmful chemicals for sewage system maintenance. Choosing products wrapped in paper packaging, rather than plastic, can help the environment as well, since plastic waste is a major cause of air pollution.
Deciding whether to reopen a facility when COVID-19 is still circulating will be difficult for many businesses. As some facilities choose to reopen in accordance with government requirements, they should have a heightened focus on health and cleanliness. Offering hand hygiene essentials and routinely disinfecting surfaces limit the spread of disease and put customers and employees at ease. Meanwhile, integrating sustainability into reopening plans helps brands further protect their reputation during a challenging time.
— Fabio Vitali is vice president of marketing for Sofidel, a world leader in the manufacture of paper for hygienic and domestic use, including its Papernet brand. For more information, visit www.papernet.com/americas.