Global Handwashing Day, which aims to encourage people to regularly and effectively wash their hands, is on the horizon. The initiative is a timely reminder that washing your hands is essential to prevent illness from spreading throughout an office.
Approximately 80 per cent of viruses can be transmitted through physical contact, and most can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. With 32 per cent of the UK workforce hotdesking, and 49 per cent eating lunch regularly at their desks, there is potential for germs and illnesses to spread rapidly amongst workers in the office through cross contamination as they touch various surfaces.
Some items shouldn’t be in the washroom
In a previous study more than one in 10 (12 per cent) office workers said they take food or drink into the washroom, a habit that could facilitate the rapid transfer of bacteria directly from the washroom onto an item that is going to be consumed.
Further research also revealed that 40 per cent of workers admitted to using their smartphone while on the toilet and 30 per cent said they spend a longer time in the washroom since acquiring a smartphone. While using your phone may seem innocent enough, only 22 per cent of workers clean their phone after using it in the washroom. This is particularly worrying when you consider that we interact with our phones 120 times per day, on average, and bring it close to our mouths when we make calls.
Don’t cut corners when time is limited
Although it seems self-explanatory, washing your hands can significantly reduce the level of bacteria present, and therefore reduce the risk of cross contamination. Encouragingly, most people (84%) wash their hands after visiting the washroom. However, a third admitted that if they were in a rush, they would skip washing their hands in the interest of time.
Tips for office hand hygiene
Illnesses such as flu and Norovirus can spread quickly, particularly in a large office environment. We tend to be more at risk during the colder months, when we spend more time indoors and less time outside.
Given 61 per cent of office workers want cleaner washrooms, investing in the following steps will show employees your commitment to ensuring workplace hygiene is front of mind:
- Employees may not wash their hands due to a lack of provisions like soap or towels, or through being put off by an unclean handwashing area. Employers must therefore ensure all washrooms have the right number of facilities for the expected footfall, and that they are cleaned regularly (at least daily). Consider installing no touch soap dispensers and sanitisers, which help to promote hand hygiene by eliminating the need for contact and – subsequently – the spread of germs.
- Placing polite reminders near sinks and basins in kitchens and washrooms, that encourage workers to wash, dry, and sanitise their hands properly, will help to ensure hand hygiene is high on the agenda. Discouraging the use of smartphones or the presence of food or drink in the washroom should make a difference too.
- With 16 per cent of people saying a bad smell prevents them from washing their hands, investing in the correct air care solutions will help neutralise any unpleasant odours, and fragrance the air throughout the washroom, ensuring it’s as pleasant an environment to be in as possible.
- Loading up desk spaces with antibacterial wipes and hand sanitising gels can also generate a marked improvement in hygiene practices amongst employees.
- Ensuring regular, thorough cleaning takes place in all communal office areas, such as the kitchen and washroom, is essential. We’d also advise a specialist deep clean at least twice a year to more comprehensively disinfect those areas that are hard to reach, or cleaned less frequently, especially in advance of peak flu season.
At Initial we’re calling for facilities and office managers to promote clear handwashing practices within businesses this Global Hygiene Day, and ensure the right hygiene facilities, tools and education are in place. As we enter the colder months, it’s particularly important to ensure a healthy and happy working environment for all.