COVID-19 and Interior Landscaping: Avoiding Sickness

NewPro Note: Please heed CDC instructions in the face of COVID-19. Wash your hands, practice social distancing, and stay home if you are at a higher risk of getting sick, or are currently unwell.

In the interior landscape business, our job is to be in and out of public buildings which exposes us much more than the average person who works out of the same office every day.  I have hospitals, nursing homes and one particular client with employees that regularly travel internationally. With recent developments surrounding COVID-19, the interior landscape business faces some distinct challenges.  

Unlike some industries that have remote working capabilities, our business dies if we are unable to travel in and out of our client’s locations. Since my autoimmune system has been weakened the past eighteen years from being on different chemotherapy and autoimmune suppressant drugs, I’ve developed some habits while servicing accounts that I believe have helped me avoid getting sick during many bad flu seasons.  

Avoid Touching Doors And Buttons

Whenever I enter a business, I avoid touching the door handles with my bare hands.  Often, I’m carrying something so using my elbows to open a door has become second nature and doesn’t look weird. Besides not grasping door handles with my fingers, I also avoid direct contact with elevator buttons. And if too many people are taking the same elevator, I walk away like I forgot something.  One cough, one sneeze in a crowded enclosed space can allow a virus to reach several people at once.  

Keep Your Gloves On

Another benefit to our industry is wearing gloves inside doesn’t make you look like a germaphobe.  Normally, I pack my favorite garden gloves that are made from a combination of cotton and spandex. They are much cooler than latex and also have that same tight fit that makes it easier to work than traditional garden gloves. They aren’t the most attractive hand attire, but it’s better than being sick. If you forget, you can always ask housekeeping since they usually keep latex gloves in the supply closet.

Hands Off

Touching your face is natural and we do it all day long without even realizing it.  Your nose itches, you rub it. You feel a slight burn in your eyes from pollen, dust or lack of sleep, you rub them. You spot a candy jar at a reception desk, and pop a piece in your mouth without thinking of whether or not the person before you washed their hands. It’s an automatic response which can open us up to transferring germs directly into our bodies.  

Being conscious of not using your hands to satisfy an itch or weariness, isn’t as easy as it sounds.  For years, I’ve tried to train myself to resist. I had one technician with a nervous habit of rubbing her eyes as she spoke. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to bring it to her attention, it was so ingrained, she couldn’t stop.  Lucky for her, she was young and in good health, but if I had a habit like that, I would be sick all the time. 

Go On The Defensive

Since my immune system is compromised, I try to be diligent in healthy habits such as getting eight hours of sleep, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables instead of processed fast food and taking vitamins on a regular basis.  Most of all, I’ve discovered feeling stressed out can be just as damaging as a bad diet. Although I’m not always great at it, I try not to let the pressures of life which we all experience, overtake my emotions. Money, relationships, and rush hour traffic can destroy our sense of well-being and weaken our ability to fight infection. Laughing, doing things you enjoy and being around plants are natural immune system boosters.  

In this time of uncertainty, unless the government or my clients tell me I can no longer access my accounts, I’m going to continue on as best I can and maybe use a little extra hand sanitizer.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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