Britain is officially a nation of soap dodgers. Research has revealed that one in five people don’t wash their hands after using the loo, 10 per cent only dash their fingers under the water rather than washing them properly and 40 per cent wash their hands for less than 10 seconds – half the time required to kill germs effectively said the report from hand hygiene experts Cuticura.
And if washroom habits aren’t bad enough, then desk habits are even worse. Another study brings to light that office desks are dirtier than the average toilet seat. The office loo contains just 49 germs per square inch, while office telephones harbour over 25,000 germs per square inch, and keyboards and computer mice contain between 1,000 and 3,000 germs, making them 400 times dirtier than loo seats. The culprits include people failing to wash their hands, eating at their desk, and not clearing their desk at the end of each day to allow it to be properly cleaned.
By not washing their hands properly, and allowing their desks to breed germs, people risk food poisoning, the common cold, flu, diarrhea and vomiting, Norovirus, MRSA and a host of other nasties. This all comes at a cost. The average UK worker has 9.1 days off sick a year at a cost of almost £29 billion to organisations, according to research from PWC – or five per cent of the annual payroll according to Kimberly Clark Professional.
Healthy Workplace Project
All of which places enormous pressure on facilities professionals, and their cleaning contractors, to educate building users to become more hygienic. Which is where the Healthy Workplace Project comes in. Created by Kimberly Clark Professional, and used by G4S Facilities Management across a number of sites, the project aims to encourage better hygiene behaviour both at work and at home with the aim of reducing the risk of catching cold and flu viruses by up to 80 per cent.
The initiative is a general awareness campaign, for workplaces to educate and encourage people to become more hygiene conscious. It includes a variety of posters for different areas of the office – from break-out rooms to washrooms and individual office cubicles – reminding people of the importance of washing their hands, and the benefits of a healthy workplace; tent cards which are placed in areas such as reception, the staff restaurant and meeting rooms with location-specific messages including “What will you pick up at your meeting?”, “Swap ideas, not germs” and “Washing hands is as important as shaking them”; and action stickers for use in the lift, meeting rooms, restaurant, on the printer, or telephone reminding people to wash their hands. Posters in bathrooms explain how to wash hands properly in order to remove germs.
In addition to raising awareness, the programme includes a variety of practical products that are strategically positioned around the workplace at locations where they are needed. If products are located within arm’s reach it really helps with compliance.
This includes a desk caddy which fits disinfecting wipes allowing people to clean the surface of their desks, phones and keyboards, foam hand sanitiser to be used before and after shaking hands and tissues to catch sneezes – all of which is particularly important for hot desking environments where many people might use the desk throughout the day. Hand sanitisers and tissues in reception areas, staff restaurants and meeting rooms also encourage good behaviours. Hand sanitisers and wipes kill up to 99.99 per cent of germs.
When the project is launched in a workplace, an exhibition stand is erected at the client site, where the new initiative, and its benefits, are promoted to employees. Handouts and the desk caddies are shown, samples are given and questions answered. The team assesses each site individually to decide what products are needed and the type of education required. It then creates a bespoke site-specific programme. Regular updates, new posters and seasonal awareness raising helps to keep the project fresh in people’s minds and ensure that employees don’t slip back into old habits.
The Healthy Workplace Project is particularly effective when a rejuvenated cleaning regime is implemented at the same time. The specification should be re-examined to ensure that it is delivering the required results. A programme of deep cleans, which should be publicised to employees, can help to kick start the Healthy Workplace Project.
Cleaning regimes should also have a seasonal programme with enhanced cleaning over the winter period, when people are prone to getting ill. Toilet handles will be sanitised more frequently, and emphasis will be given to specific areas, when sickness breaks out, to avoid further epidemics.
Also consider introducing a change in desk etiquette. Ban eating at desks and encourage people to use the staff restaurant, or break-out areas to reduce germs at desks. Initiate a clear desk policy to ensure that the cleaning team can clean desks every night and maintain good hygiene. Introduce a desk etiquette for hot desking to ensure that people clean the desk, phone and keyboard after use. Lead from the top. The organisation’s leaders need to be seen to be taking the project seriously or it will fall flat. Encourage them to use the products and be seen to use them and talk about them.
As a result of a healthier, more hygienic lifestyle at work and at home, people feel better and they avoid minor illnesses such as the common cold and stomach bugs. Absenteeism is therefore reduced. Many people see the project as strong evidence that their employer values them and their health, which encourages people to be more loyal and motivated and engaged at work.
The initiative aims to create a ripple effect with employees who are already healthy encouraging others to adopt a more hygienic lifestyle too. The good news is that FMs only need between 20-40 per cent of people in an office to change their habits to break the transmission chain and improve workplace hygiene. The Healthy Workplace Project is an ideal way to give your workplace a healthy kickstart into autumn and winter.
Regular training in the importance of hand hygiene, to help to stop the spread of infections, is undertaken by all of G4S FM’s healthcare cleaning operatives. Kimberly-Clark Professional and G4S FM are working in partnership with clients in order to bring all the lessons learnt in hospital contracts, directly into commercial business. The best practice needs to be adopted by everyone in the wider community and while the bugs you pick up in the office probably won’t kill you, they can make you very unwell and can be avoided.
G4S FM’s healthy workplace project compliments cleaning contracts proving that intelligent cleaning and good hand hygiene can reduce sickness levels in the workplace. Lorraine Davis is head of cleaning at FM service provider G4S Facilities Management
HOW TO WASH YOUR HANDS
- Before you start; roll up your sleeves, remove any rings containing stones and remove your wrist watch.
- Wet your hands under running warm water before you add the soap. Liquid soap is usually easier to use than solid soap – and just as effective.
- Put a small amount of soap in the palm of one hand.
- Rub your hands together palm to palm to spread the soap over your skin.
- Rub palm over the back of your other hand. Then do the same for the other hand.
- Either with your hands palm to palm or with one hand on top of the other, rub your hands together with your fingers interlaced to clean the space between your fingers.
- Clean the tips of your fingers by rubbing them in the cupped palm of your other hand.
- Hold your thumb with your other hand and rub the entire surface thoroughly. Repeat with your other thumb.
- Grasp one wrist with your other hand and rub the entire surface thoroughly. Repeat with your other wrist.
- Rub your hands palm to palm again.
- Rinse your hand thoroughly under running water to remove any traces of soap or bubbles.
- Dry your hands thoroughly using paper towels, or at home use a clean towel.