Coronavirus: initial guidance for charity facilities managers

This page sets out what charity facilities managers can do to minimise the risks related to COVID-19 in the workplace.

A man in a mask.

January 2020: Listening to a briefing about the coronavirus.

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. Ten days later, the cause was identified: a new form of coronavirus. Since then, the new virus has spread to many countries. 

The UK government has declared that the incidence or transmission of the novel coronavirus constitutes "a serious and imminent threat to public health".

What can Charity Facilities Managers do?

What's on this page: 

  1. Inform yourself about the virus and keep up to date with government advice
  2. Communicate key messages to staff, volunteers and stakeholders
  3. Review how you support good hygiene
  4. Update cleaning regimes
  5. Manage travel risks
  6. Support staff working from home
  7. Make use of online resources

1. Inform yourself about the virus and keep up todate with current government advice

Be informed about the virus

What is it?

'Coronavirus' is the name of a family of viruses that can cause illness, ranging from something like the common cold to very severe illness. The new form of coronavirus has been given the official name COVID-19.

It first appeared in a live animal market in China. The virus is now spreading to other countries. 

How dangerous is it?

On 22 February 2020, the WHO estimated that COVID-19 is severe or critical in 20% of cases, mild in 80% and has been fatal in 2% of cases.

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms include (but are not limited to) fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath.

People of all ages can be infected. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill. There are relatively few cases among children.

How is the virus spread? 

Health authorities are still learning how the virus spreads. It is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:

  • direct contact with a person whilst they are infectious
  • contact with droplets when a person with an infection coughs or sneezes
  • touching objects or surfaces contaminated by droplets from a person with an infection, and then touching your mouth or face. 

Government Advice

The website has current advice about the virus. Charity fms should keep up to date with the latest advice.

The NHS has issued advice on when to stay at home and how to self-isolate.

2.Communicate key messages to staff, volunteers and visitors

Providing accurate news and clear information to colleagues is one of the most useful things you can do.

Staff, volunteers and other stakeholders may feel anxious about health risks, and some people may also be misinformed about the situation, creating further uncertainty. 

Facilities managers can play a key role in advising senior staff. You should aim to should be a source of accurate, up-to-date information about the outbreak and what measures your charity can take. 

This section below sets out the information that you can provide to staff and visitors:


How can we limit the spread of COVID-19? 

Good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence.

Practice good hand hygiene

Wash your hands frequently and properly. 

Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

NHS and World Health Organisation guidance advises that people should use a disposable towel to turn off the tap.  

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 60% alcohol.

Hand dryers do not kill the virus. Neither do infra-red lamps.

Practice respiratory hygiene

  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue and dispose of the tissue in a closed bin immediately.
  • If no tissue is available, cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you have touched a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands, you could transfer the virus to yourself. 

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing or have a fever.

Stay home if you are sick

Do not bring illness into the workplace. Use online conferencing as appropriate.

Managers should ensure that staff stay at home if they are unwell - and lead by example.

If you have traveled to an area where the virus has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has traveled from China and has respiratory symptoms, refer to government advice.

A note on facemasks

There is some debate about the utility of facemasks. The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend the use of facemasks for the general public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The CDC says that if worn properly, a facemask can help block respiratory secretions produced by the wearer (i.e. acting as a 'source control').

Keep it clean!

Viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to eight hours. Sanitise objects such as keyboards and door handles frequently. 



This advice is also good advice for limiting the spread of other viruses such as the flu.

Facilities teams can make use of all available communication channels to circulate information, including posters, video screens, email and social media. The information should be provided in a clear, low-key way. 

3. Review how you support good hygiene

Handwashing facilities: Ensure that facilities for handwashing are available, adequate and well supplied. More people washing their hands more often may require more supplies of soap, paper towels, etc.

Provide additional hand sanitisers, tissues and cleaning resources around your buildings. This will help to reassure staff and visitors.

FMs can also provide disposable wipes so that staff and volunteers can wipe down commonly used surfaces (e.g., keyboards, mice and other remote controls) before use.

4. Update cleaning regimes

Current evidence suggests that COVID-19 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. 

You should review your cleaning regimes and ensure that there is extra coverage of key areas.

Cleaners should practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, elevator controls, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks) with household cleaners and disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface. 

The Health and Safety Executive's general pandemic flu workplace guidance states:

"Cleaning staff in other settings, particularly those involved in cleaning areas where there is a large public turnover, should be reminded of the need to ensure a personal hygiene routine of hand washing (i.e. using soap and water and thoroughly drying) after contact with communal objects/surfaces.


"Damp rather than dry dusting should be carried out to avoid the generation of dust particles. Cleaning of surfaces should be carried out using a freshly prepared solution of detergent and hot water followed, where necessary, by a chlorine based disinfectant solution.

The emptying of bins and waste paper baskets should be followed by hand washing."

To ensure effectiveness and safety, cleaners should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, and use of personal protective equipment).

Your revised cleaning requirements should be commuicated to cleaners clearly and in a structured way, not: "give the light switches a once-over".  If your arrangements are relatively informal, it may be useful to prepare a checklist of items to be cleaned in order of priority.

You may need to discuss your cleaning arrangements and contracts with your cleaning company. 

For premises that may have been exposed to COVID-19, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has published Interim guidance for environmental cleaning in non-healthcare facilities exposed to 2019-nCoV (PDF)  . 

5. Manage travel risks

Some charities ask their facilities team to manage staff travel. Detailed travel guidance is outside the scope of this document, but the basic steps include:

1. Keep up to date with current advice on foreign travel

2. Review travel plans 

  • Consider whether the travel is absolutely necessary. Consider alternatives such as video conferencing.
  • Undertake a full travel risk assessment - and include the travellers themselves in this process.
  • Provide clear advice and training to people travelling.
  • Work with your insurers or travel consultants to ensure that you provide the best support for travellers affected. The FCO publishes advice on travel insurance. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) also has a detailed guide on how to support travellers

3. Consider staff working overseas

If you have UK staff or volunteers working overseas consider what access they have to health services.

4. Event planning

If your charity is planning events which will bring together large numbers of people, keep your plans under review. If your events depend on volunteers, be aware that many may prefer to stay home. 

6. Support staff working from home

It is becoming likely that many people will need to work from home. This means that having the infrastructure, equipment and processes available to support remote working will be critical.

Wherever it is possible for staff to do their work from home, put measures in place that will allow them to do so. Be ready to support staff, and volunteers if appropriate,  if they are impacted by school closures or enforced quarantine.


  • work with i.t. staff and/or consultants to set up secure, remote access to servers,
  • work with i.t. staff to set up secure cloud storage,
  • install or upgrading video conferencing facilities,
  • consider supplying staff with mobile phones, ensure that there are effective 'communication chains' to enable news to be passed on - for example regarding office closures
  • support staff to establish safe home-working environments and providing necessary equipment,
  • work h.r. teams to develop guidance on home working and processes to maximise good communications.

7. Use online resources

Government, local authorities and international organisations will be providing up-to-date information and resources. Be aware of what is available and use the resources they provide to help you support your charity, colleagues and stakeholders. 

UK Government advice

The website has information for the public on the current situation in the UK and information about the virus and its symptoms.

World Health Organisation (WHO)

The WHO works with 194 countries to improve global health. It is providing regular updates on the COVID-19 outbreak

General Workplace guidance

The US CDC has published  Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

CDC is also publishing a variety of communication resources in different formats including print and video. 

Travel Advice

Advice for travellers is outside the scope of this page.

The international travel security services company International SOS has a web page setting out advice for international travellers .

IOSH also provides coronavirus travel advice.

Hand hygiene

The US CDC has excellent guidance on how to wash your hands correctly

The WHO is publishing advice for the public on hygiene measures.


The WHO has a series of downloadable posters giving public advice on hygiene.


Related information:

Your charity should have contingency plans in place for how it will operate in the case of major disruption, including a pandemic. We have published an Introduction to Business Continuity Management (BCM) for charities.

Date published