Kitchen and food preparation areas have now become an essential feature of the modern workplace. They are a key element of the contemporary collaborative business, allowing employees to prepare a meal, brainstorm or simply gather together to chat whilst on a break. This helps to introduce an inviting and social aspect into the workplace atmosphere, whilst simultaneously raising morale and productivity. As such, office kitchens can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction levels, helping to keep disruption to everyday business processes to a minimum and staff turnover as low as possible.
However, office kitchens do require businesses to invest time in their overall upkeep. The installation of large appliances and work surfaces often takes up a significant amount of space, all of which has to be regularly cleaned and maintained. The preparation and storage of food in these areas makes this all the more pressing. If left unclean, these spaces can become breeding grounds for germs, and therefore a health and safety risk which organisations cannot afford to ignore.
Thorough cleaning routines are vital and it is important that these are implemented frequently, preferably daily. The cleaning products used to complete these tasks will always vary from office to office and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. However, in all cases it is often advisable, if possible, to store concentrate cleaning solutions rather than pre-diluted products, as both a cost-saving and space-saving initiative. Cleaning cloths should also be in regular supply. If these are disposable, it should be ensured that they are not kept too long, or if they are multi use, that they are regularly cleaned and replaced when necessary.
Beyond this, it is essential to communicate to employees their own responsibility to keep shared kitchen spaces clean and in good condition. Employees should be made aware that as well as wiping down surfaces and equipment after they have used them throughout the day, crumbs and leftovers should be put straight in the bin, which should also be frequently taken out. If all employees take responsibility for their own mess in this way, the kitchen is more likely to remain a hygienic and attractive space that all members of staff can enjoy.
Businesses can prompt employees to keep kitchen areas in good condition via a list of basic rules and reminders posted on an office wall or intranet portals. However, in order to avoid offending employees it is important that this does not come across as accusatory.
One of the major benefits of an office kitchen for employees tends to be the provision of fridges and microwaves, so that food can be properly stored for lunch breaks or other snacks. It is vital that all food is covered, labelled, and stored in appropriate containers and clean cabinets. Any food that is left uneaten after its use by date should be disposed of accordingly before becoming a health risk, rather than being left to go bad.
Hygiene with regards to food preparation should also be managed in order to avoid the spread of illness amongst employees. The provision of hand-soap or gels in areas where food is prepared or handled should be a priority for facilities managers.
Slips, trips and falls can be a particularly troublesome prospect in office kitchens, where tea, coffee and all manner of drinks may be spilt and employees may often be in a hurry to get back to work. It is important that workers do not put their haste above their fellow employees’ safety. Even if no cleaning equipment is available for staff to quickly mop up the mess, a wet floor sign should be placed next to the spillage and cleaning staff should be informed immediately.
The morale-building nature of office kitchens is only maintained as long as the facilities themselves are. When choosing and implementing kitchen sideboards, work surfaces, cupboards and other elements, design, practicality and usage of space should all be taken into account. A kitchen that looks good is one thing, but the desire for design must not get in the way of user experience and before a new kitchen space is created, it is often a good idea to canvass opinion amongst employees about ‘must have’ items.
Thoughtful configurations are important not only for the look of the kitchen and its functionality, but also for its accessibility during cleaning. Even if a regular and thorough routine is exercised, should areas become inaccessible or difficult to clean, it may become more of a challenge to make sure the kitchen is fully hygienic and fit for food and drink preparation to take place.
Proper attention should be paid to all aspects of a kitchen’s usage and all the more so in offices, where an additional, communal element needs to be considered. When utilising a kitchen in great numbers, all employees should be catered for, but this also means that every member of staff should contribute to the space’s maintenance. By persuading the entire workforce to buy into this approach, poor hygiene, illness and absenteeism can be avoided. This way, the relaxing, communal benefits of the office kitchen can be fully realised and staff morale can flourish as a result.
Written by George Hand, Sales Manager for Cleaning, Hygiene and Catering, Office Depot UK & Ireland.