‘Clean air was vital for getting our staff back into the office’

Air filters have helped a Dublin-based accountancy firm eliminate one of its biggest Covid challenges – training new staff from home. 

Featured on: Independent.ie

Eighteen of Icon Accounting’s 43 staff have returned to their desks in Swords, many for the first time since March 2020.  

But the most transformative change is the company’s ability to begin instructing trainee accountants in person again, largely due to four hospital-grade HEPA filters it brought in to coincide with the phased return to workplaces. 

“It was very time consuming training staff at home; we put a lot of resources into training videos and built a learning management system, but nothing beats training with someone sitting beside you,” said Icon founder and MD, Ger Kiernan. 

“Listening to what’s going on, they pick up so much more. 

“It’s fine for people who are professional, fully qualified accountants, they can work remotely all day. But as we tried to train and bring new staff on, they were suffering and not learning enough. 

“It was our biggest challenge: it was tough on the trainer and on the trainee  and we were anxious to get them back (into the office).” 

The SME, which has 2,000 clients on its books, mainly independent contractors in the pharmaceutical, life science and engineering sectors, says the filters helped reassure staff it was safe to return to the office. 

It has also adopted a hybrid approach, allowing some employees divide their working life between home and the office at Swords’ Airside Retail Park.  

Irish firm Mia Air supplied the company with four large filters, two of which are used in the open plan office and the remainder plugged in in two smaller offices, each accommodating five-six staff. 

And they helped ensure a swifter return to the workplace – even among staff worried about returning on safety grounds. 

“We didn’t push it on anyone, bringing in the Mia Air filters was an extra measure, it has allayed fears and given them more confidence,” said Mr Kiernan. 

“Other people simply had to be in as they couldn’t work from home for personal reasons.” 

The high efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) systems work by trapping and destroying airborne particles and viruses before pumping out clean air through a fan – and can be controlled on smartphone apps. 

“We’ll keep them here even when Covid has gone, why wouldn’t you? It eliminates every other cold and virus in the air that people could potentially pick up,” said Mr Kiernan. 

“We wanted to do as much as we could to make it a clean, stable and safe environment, bringing in desk dividers, we had protocols around mask wearing and antigen tests for staff twice a week. We’ve done everything, the air filters were the final piece of the jigsaw.” 

David Byrne, MD of Mia Air, said it has been inundated with enquiries since a phased return to the workplace began last month. 

“Clean air is now seen as being as important in the workplace setting as the provision of clean water or fire safety procedures,” he said. 

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