Following a restful Christmas break, many students have already arrived back at university, ready to embark on ‘refreshers’ week’. Like freshers’ week, the first week of the spring term is usually a time for celebration. However, it can also bring with it ill health in the form of refreshers’ flu. With students from all over the world now living together in close quarters and with outside temperatures often still low, it is no surprise that illnesses are often rife at this time in the academic year. This can cause havoc with students’ stress levels and make the return to studying even more difficult.
There are some surefire methods universities can use to combat this trend and limit infection, helping to safeguard levels of student wellbeing and productivity. These include taking advantage of the latest innovations in the cleaning sector, optimising supply chains and educating students around personal hygiene, all whilst engaging with the green agenda.
Effective hygiene begins in the washroom
Washroom facilities play a vital role in combatting harmful bacteria. Germs can spread like wildfire when these go untended, so it is important that this is one of the first areas facilities managers consider in the fight against refreshers’ flu. All aspects of washrooms, and the products which are provided within them, should therefore be carefully considered.
Hand soap should always be provided, but the specifics of each product need to be carefully scrutinised before a choice is made on which to provide. For instance, while alcohol-based sanitisers may be effective, they can be harsh on the skin and students may therefore be put off from using them. Similar choices will need to be made across all provisions, purchasing with the direct user – students – in mind.
Washroom design can also have an important impact on levels of hygiene on campus. For example, implementing sensor-operated taps and pedal-operated bins is a surefire way to limit the spread of germs on hands, reducing the need for contact with any potentially unhygienic surfaces. A washroom’s design can either aid or inhibit cleaning processes, as more modern, minimalist designs tend to be less cluttered than traditional bathrooms. This means that there are fewer hard-to-reach fixtures and fittings, so the entire room is made more accessible for cleaning.
Education, education, education
In order to effectively safeguard the health of their students, it is vital that universities extend education to all aspects of life, including those which exist outside of the lecture hall. Many aspects of personal hygiene may seem obvious, and it would be easy for advice in these areas to come across as patronising. However, with a clear communication strategy, institutions can inform students without being condescending, and help to improve the health and wellbeing of the entire campus community.
Ensuring that all students are properly educated on the importance of proper handwashing techniques, which can often be misunderstood or ignored, is important. The majority of people are aware that handwashing is integral in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria and germs. However, what some may not know is that to be truly effective, it is widely recommended that hands should be washed for a minimum of 20 seconds. Simple signage, displayed around washrooms, halls of residence and flat kitchens, will help to educate students, whilst helping to reduce occurrences of cross-infection.
University health centres can also play an important role in preventing outbreaks. By offering educational leaflets, drop-in advice sessions and occasional emails to students stressing hygienic practices, health centres can help to raise awareness of outbreaks and necessary steps to minimise cases of infection.
Consider a move towards green cleaning
When looking to diminish the spread of refreshers’ flu, or other contagious illnesses, facilities managers will likely want to review their current ordering habits. In doing this, they should also take the time to consider the environmental impacts of their orders, as recent developments in cleaning and hygiene products have opened up a number of viable opportunities in this area.
One way of doing this is by consolidating the cleaning supply chain. If products are being ordered from a vast array of suppliers, the number of shipments and deliveries being made will increase. Instead, by choosing a sole provider who can provide the entirety of the university’s order, the reduction of deliveries will have an obvious positive knock-on effect on carbon footprints. Consolidating the supply chain can also have numerous real business benefits, such as the development of supplier partnerships and discounts for bulk purchases. Therefore, by taking the time to review procurement processes, everyone becomes a winner.
By taking a proactive approach to hygiene levels on campus this academic term, universities will be able to limit the spread of refreshers’ flu, improve standards of student health and wellbeing and arm themselves for the future, with an optimised and environmentally-friendly procurement strategy.
George Hand, Sales Manager for cleaning, hygiene and catering, Office Depot UK & Ireland.