With cold and flu season just around the corner, now is the time to start addressing hygiene habits in the office before lack of it results in; a drop in workplace productivity and profitability, particularly as business during the winter months can be slower than average anyway. While this may be a daunting and sensitive issue for those that are required to tackle it, it is one that can have an impact on all involved in more ways than one if it is not resolved.
There have been a number of surveys carried out in 2015 that have revealed some jaw dropping results about the UK’s level of hygiene:
- The average office desk is 400 times dirtier than the average toilet seat
- 25% of office workers do not wash their hands at every trip to the wash room
- 25% of adults only brush their teeth once a day
- 21% of women don’t shower or bath every day
While it may be an embarrassing and challenging conversation to have with a member of the team, the most important and potentially damaging aspect can be the office gossip that surrounds it – this can be incredibly counter-productive, and should be addressed and stopped with immediate effect. Yes, the issue could be down to a lack of care and attention, but it could also be a medical condition causing the symptoms. Should you decide to confront the issue with the employee involved, this should be done away from the office preferably at a neutral location with a more relaxed atmosphere, for instance going for a working lunch or coffee. While you need to be respectful and empathetic, it is important to be very clear to ensure that the message is both heard and understood, to avoid an immediate defensive reaction you should start sentences with “I feel,” rather than “you are.”
This will undoubtedly be an uncomfortable conversation for both parties involved, so be clear to set out the expectations, offer guidance and support on what they are required to achieve and maintain; this also serves to pave a clear HR path should further action need to be taken.
However, if you are not happy handling the issue head on then starting a general drive for a more hygienic workplace with team pep talk about hygiene, perhaps with a ‘office standards have slipped and we all need to make an effort’ approach may be a proactive yet subtle way of raising the issue.
Cleanliness next to Godliness
Office surfaces, equipment and hardware harbour an unseen eco system of germs and viruses, and the humble computer mouse is the worst culprit when it comes to playing host. Starting a daily ritual of using disinfectant wipes or solution to make sure that desks, keyboards and of course, the mouse is spick and span will help keep germs at bay.
Place alcohol hand sanitizers around the office and on everyone’s desks to act as a reminder for the cause throughout the day.
Some companies have placed hygiene notices and standards in the toilets to drive home the message; this could be coupled by having personal care products available to use for employees along with the usual hand wash and hand cream.
Poor indoor air quality can have a serious impact on office productivity as the levels of CO2 build up. Open the windows or consider investing in an air movement system to keep the air in the office fresh and clean, making it a more comfortable environment.
Eating lunch al’ desko is bad practice on so many levels; crumbs left in and around office equipment can become a breeding ground for bacteria, the aroma of so many lunches can also make the office space claustrophobic, so if possible, adopt a ban on desk time snacking!
There have been recent reports that antibiotic resistance has decreased, and that our attitudes and behaviours surrounding personal hygiene is a factor in this breakthrough. Through making this a priority it will not only keep all the employees comfortable and productive, but will prevent you losing revenue when it comes to the period in the year when employee sickness peaks.
Take the test below to see where you stand when it comes to cleanliness!