Global Handwashing Day is right around the corner. Aimed at encouraging people to regularly and effectively wash their hands, the initiative serves as a timely reminder for businesses to ensure their own workplace hygiene standards and facilities are up to scratch.
Handwashing plays a vital role in preventing illness from spreading throughout the workplace. Approximately 80% of viruses can be transmitted through physical contact, and most can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. With 32% of the UK workforce hotdesking, and 49% 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 as they go about their working day.
Some things need to stay out of the washroom
More than one in 10 (12%) of office workers said they take food or drink into the washroom with them, a habit that could facilitate the rapid transfer of bacteria directly from the washroom onto an item that is going to be consumed.
On top of that, our research reveals 40% of workers admitted to using their smartphone while on the toilet and 30% said they spend longer in washrooms since acquiring a smartphone. While using your phone may seem innocent enough, only 22% 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.
Standards decline when time is tight
The simple act of 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 forego washing their hands.
Hand hygiene tips for the workplace
Illnesses such as flu and Norovirus can spread quickly, particularly in a large office environment and we tend to be more at risk during the colder months when we spend more time indoors and less time outside.
The good news is that there’s plenty that can be done to ensure your workplace is a hand hygiene haven:
- With reasons for not washing hands ranging from a lack of provisions like soap or towels to being put off by an unclean handwashing area, employers must ensure their 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 too, which help to promote hand hygiene by eliminating the need for contact and – subsequently – the spread of germs.
- Education cannot be underestimated. Putting reminders near sinks and basins in kitchens and washrooms, that encourage workers to wash, dry, and sanitise their hands properly, will help. Discouraging the use of smartphones or the presence of food or drink in the washroom should make a difference too.
- With 16% of people saying a bad smell would prevent them from washing their hands, investing in the correct air care solutions will help neutralise any unpleasant odours, fragrance the air throughout the washroom and encourage handwashing.
- Simple steps like loading up desk spaces with antibacterial wipes and hand sanitising gels can all generate a marked improvement in hygiene practices amongst employees.
- Ensuring regular, thorough cleaning takes places in all communal office areas, such as the kitchen and washroom, is essential. A specialist deep clean to more comprehensively disinfect those areas that are hard to reach, or cleaned less frequently is advised twice a year, especially in advance of peak flu season.
Given 61% of office workers want cleaner washrooms, investing in these steps will show employees your commitment to ensuring workplace hygiene is front of mind.
As we enter the colder months, let Global Handwashing Day serve as a reminder to check in with your team on their handwashing practices, and ensure that the right hygiene facilities, tools and education are in place. This should create a healthier and happier working environment for all and help prevent illnesses from spreading throughout the workplace.