Dr Peter Barratt, Technical Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene, looks at some ways in which you can implement a hygiene strategy that will keep your workforce healthy and productive and avoid excessive sick days.
With 80% of viruses and most bacteria transmissible through touch, and the flu virus living on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, it’s not surprising offices are such a hotbed for bacteria and viruses. Furthermore, with one in four office workers admitting to not washing their hands after visiting the washroom, facilities are vulnerable to the harbouring and spreading of infection.
It is therefore vital that businesses and staff are aware of how common illnesses are transmitted in an office environment and the steps they can take to reduce the spread of germs. Simple changes to personal hygiene habits and office layout can improve employees’ chances of staying healthy and bug-free, which is particularly important in colder months when viruses spread more easily because we spend more time indoors.
So, here are a few way you can ensure a healthy working environment is adopted for all staff:
1. Promote good hand hygiene standards
Staff should be washing their hands regularly with good quality soap, and hand sanitiser stations should always be available. The golden rule is: wash, dry, sanitise. The most effective kind of sanitisers are non-alcohol based like Initial’s UltraProtect, which forms a gentle but long-lasting barrier on hands, protecting against germs for a few hours after use.
2. Improve reception/entrance area
Door handles and common touch-points are a risk hotspot in reception and entrance areas, harbouring bacteria and viruses which can be transferred from surface to hand and from hand to hand. Bacteria and viruses can cause food poisoning, respiratory diseases and skin infections, so introduce hand and surface sanitisers to kill germs and help prevent the spread of infection.
3. Regular cleaning regimes
Ensure regular, thorough cleaning takes place in communal areas like shared kitchens and washroom facilities as well as the corridors and room door handles. For example, food preparation surfaces in kitchens can be home to pathogenic strains of E.Coli and the Norovirus. These can be transmitted from surface to hand, hand to mouth or by infected food and can cause gastroenteritis and urinary tract infections. Good hand washing and drying products can help to minimise the risk of infection.
For those companies that have open plan working environments, with only basic cleaning practises in place, undertake a professional deep clean at least twice a year to prevent the build-up of embedded dirt and contamination.
4. Clean desks
Encourage staff to clean their desk areas regularly by providing anti-bacterial wipes and make sure that desk items such as keyboards and phones are routinely cleaned. A previous study by Initial Washroom Hygiene found that the average computer mouse was home to more than three times the levels of bacteria-related contamination than the average toilet seat, and twice as many as on a toilet flush handle.
5. Introduce scenting products
High footfall makes corridors and common areas germ hotspots. Scenting products will help control and minimise aromas that might come from malodour-producing bacteria. Air disinfection units will also help reduce airborne microorganisms.
It is essential to encourage both staff and workplace visitors to take personal responsibility by following correct hygienic practices. In addition, offices need to make sure that they make use of specialist cleaners and the latest cleaning technologies. By following these basic precautions, facilities and office managers can ensure a hygienic environment, and look forward to happier, more productive employees.