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Use Technology to Combat & Detect Viruses at Work

Use Technology to Combat & Detect Viruses at Work

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For the past 18 months, business decision-makers and building owners have strategized to ensure their workspaces are safe and healthy locations for employees. In the early stages of the pandemic, this conversation revolved around social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitizing. Those guidelines are still important for employees to follow but are no longer adequate on their own. In order to foster a happy, healthy, and productive workforce in a post-COVID world, it’s important that building managers and business decision-makers implement viral detection and prevention practices. 
Viral detection and prevention technology has improved significantly since the start of the pandemic. One of the most helpful tools in fighting viruses is the Internet of things (IoT), which allows businesses to customize and scale their health and wellness technology based on their needs. By using IoT, office managers and building owners can receive in-depth data about the health and safety of their building remotely, like air quality monitoring, germicidal cleaning, and virus detection. 
Germicidal UV Cleaning 
Believe it or not, ultraviolet (UV) light — which is invisible to the human eye — has been used to ward off bacteria and other contagions since the 1800s. But now with public health concerns over COVID-19 remerging, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), has received renewed interest. UV light methods can be used without much human intervention or elbow grease; whereas chemical cleaning requires that the correct cleaning agent be used, the appropriate amount of agent is applied to kill the bacteria, and that no spots are missed on the surface. While chemical cleaners are mainly used to clean and disinfect hard surfaces, UV light can effectively kill microbes both on surfaces and in the air. IoT also gives companies the ability to use UV light without being in the office, by just using an app on a smartphone. For example, UV lighting can be activated an hour before employees arrive ensuring a clean and safe workspace. In the long term, UV light is a more cost-effective option as companies can lower labor and long-term costs.  
Not only are ​​UV disinfection systems effective, but they are also energy-efficient and safe for the environment. Advancements in technology have spurred the production of smaller units from manufacturers, which make devices that draw at seven amps off of a standard 110V outlet.  
Virus Detection  
Viruses tend to spread faster in the winter months as the weather gets colder and people are forced inside. It is vital that business leaders and building owners install virus detection equipment ahead of this annual hazard. There are now incredible devices available that can collect viruses floating in the air and alert employees in a workspace. These devices can now trace some of the smallest particles that can linger in the air for hours after an infected person talks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes. The ability to alert tenants that the air is unsafe will increase the trust people have in the space.  
These detectors can detect any spike protein, and their uses go beyond detecting COVID-19. That being said, technology is key in making virus detection a successful endeavor. In order to detect a virus in the HVAC system, a fair amount of viral load needs to be present, and it can take a long time to get to that point. Implementing IoT technology makes it easier to not just detect, but to anticipate the conditions where viruses spread. 
Additionally, technology can also create an automatic sequence of responses when a virus is detected. For example, a system could be triggered to recirculate air twice as fast, or could automatically alert HR.  
Building virus detection solutions can make workspaces habitable again, especially when layered with personal virus detection as it is the key to managing the spread of viruses.  
Air Quality 
Air Quality is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of our daily lives. When air quality is good, it goes unnoticed and is never talked about, but when it is bad, it can cause a plethora of issues. While in the office, if humidity isn’t ranging from 20 percent to 60 percent with temperatures in the 68- to 76-degree range, it can cause discomfort for employees. However, there are many reasons to know humidity levels in the workplace that go beyond the comfort of staff and clients inhabiting a space.  
Too dry, and electrical shortages can wreak havoc on those expensive computer systems. Too wet, and you can create an environment ripe for a black mold infestation. To make matters more complicated, a study shows that the COVID-19 virus decays faster at close to 60 percent relative humidity than at other levels, so there’s an even greater incentive to keep workplace environments at a constant temperature. With IoT, companies will be able to track the air quality in their offices remotely. By using sensors, office and building owners can measure the quality of the air within those spaces by just using their smartphones.  
The pandemic has made the workforce more health and wellness conscious and it’s up to building owners and business decision-makers to ensure their workplace is clean and safe. As a result, employers need to alter their offices to meet the safety measures employees expect. 
By Erin McDannald, CEO of Lighting Environments and Environments.

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