Did you know that the simple act of handwashing can save hundreds of thousands of people from bad health or worse every year? A lack of handwashing facilities or awareness programmes puts individuals at risk of diseases that impact their health, but poor handwashing behaviours isn’t only a problem in developing countries.
These days, despite an increase in flexible working, the majority of people spend most of their time in the workplace. Offices hold large numbers of people every day. In such conditions, germs and illnesses can easily spread.
Even though 84% of office workers claim to wash their hands after visiting the bathroom, another of our studies suggests it’s only actually half of that. Now take into account the 32% of people who sometimes or always hot-desk and those 49% who eat at their desks – the potential for germs to spread is high.
Could employers do more for staff? With reasons for not washing hands ranging from a lack of provisions like soap or towels (20%) to avoiding queues for the sink or hand dryer (14%), being discouraged by a bad smell (16%) or an unclean handwashing area (15%), there’s clearly a strong case for action. While it can be argued that the responsibility for clean hands lies with the individual, satisfactory washroom conditions and educating people about efficient hand hygiene can play an important part in promoting positive action.
6 easy tips to help improve hand hygiene in your office
Germs like to get around, but there are plenty of things businesses can do to prevent them from doing so.
1. Encourage employees to practise good hand hygiene
Washing hands regularly and thoroughly helps to reduce and remove potentially harmful bacteria and viruses. Our research shows that fingertips and thumbs often get missed during hand washing, so here’s a handy guide to getting it right.
2. Introduce simple handwashing initiatives
Simple initiatives such as reminders near sinks and basins that encourage workers to wash, dry, and sanitise their hands, while discouraging the use of smartphones in the washroom, can make a difference. A smartphone taken into the washroom will invariably end up with germs and bacteria on it. People who pick up their phone after washing their hands are immediately undoing their good work and could be placing themselves and their colleagues needlessly at risk.
3. Invest in quality washroom solutions
Investing in the correct air care solutions will help neutralise bad odours and intelligently fragrance the air throughout the washroom providing your employees with a better washroom experience, which has proven to increase handwashing compliance. The use of kind yet effective soaps that don’t strip out natural oils will benefit people who refuse to use soap due to its skin-drying nature. Consider installing no-touch soap dispensers and sanitisers too, which help to promote hand hygiene by eliminating the need for contact and – subsequently – the spread of germs.
4. Install antibacterial hygienic door handles
It isn’t long before clean hands come into contact with contaminated surfaces. Antibacterial hygienic door handles can provide a barrier between clean hands and dirty door handles, preventing cross-contamination.
5. Provide your employees with hand sanitiser
Hand sanitisers to combat spreading should also be available around the office. The most effective sanitisers are those that are not alcohol-based and form a gentle, long-lasting protective barrier around hands.
6. Ensure communal areas are cleaned regularly
Businesses should ensure regular, thorough cleaning takes place in communal office areas, such as the kitchen. Table tops and store shelves should be cleaned regularly using anti-bacterial surface wipes. It’s recommended that companies undertake a professional deep clean at least twice a year to prevent the build-up of hidden dirt.
Lastly, if an employee contracts a virus such as Norovirus – a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea – make sure they stay away from your premises for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have disappeared, to avoid wider contamination.
A clean commercial washroom equals clean hands for all
Our study showed that 61% of office workers want cleaner washroom facilities at their place of business. If cleaner, more hygienic facilities encourage better habits amongst staff, employers should think about investing in them, while staff should consider the impact good hand-hygiene can have on colleagues.
Research commissioned by People HR via an online survey of 2,002 UK adults at the start of 2019 revealed that 66% of people forced themselves to go to work with colds and flu. In the USA, illness-related lost productivity costs businesses $530 billion per year, according to a 2018 report from the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI).
Proper investment in workplace hygiene facilities will not only benefit a business by introducing a healthier and happier working environment for staff, but it may also see businesses losing fewer days to sickness while experiencing an increase in productivity as a result.