How to handle personal hygiene in the workplace

A single employee with poor  personal hygiene can affect the health and productivity of the rest of your team.

As an employer, you have a duty to your workforce to provide clean conditions for everyone to work in. Problems can arise when one or more employees raise a complaint against a colleague about their lack of personal hygiene. They may have strong body odour, wear the same clothes repeatedly without washing, or it might be noted that this particular colleague has poor bathroom habits.

personal hygieneAside from causing a problem internally as some of your team members don’t want to sit near this person, if they have any amount of client contact, then this could also put the reputation of your business at risk. With this in mind, it’s important for HR to address the situation promptly.

Setting a positive example

Before you call in the employee for a discreet chat, it’s important to take a hard look at the hygiene of your workplace in general. If you create a clean, hygienic environment, then you’re setting a positive example to your workforce that you expect certain standards to be maintained. Starting with your washrooms, it’s important that they are fragrant, regularly cleaned and provide features that encourage the best practices in hygiene. For example, running out of soap and having a crusty hand towel on offer doesn’t promote the idea that your company cares about cleanliness. However, a washroom services Essex based team explains that modern hygiene technology such as pedal-operated waste and sanitary bins, hand dryers and soap dispensers all help persuade your employees to take germ avoidance seriously. Providing the same level of care in other communal areas such as your kitchen is also an important step in standard setting.

HR meeting

Initially, it’s a good idea to give your employee the benefit of doubt that they can change their ways if given a polite nudge to do so. The first contact with the person in question should be an informal chat with HR. It’s important not to be judgmental but simply raise the issue directly, explaining that people have raised a complaint about their levels of hygiene. Depending on the character of the employee, this could likely be an extremely sensitive matter which may raise strong emotions such as anger or tears. Try to stay sympathetic and listen to your employee, but make notes after the meeting documenting exactly what was discussed and the reaction you received.

Next steps

If the issue persists and further complaints are received, then the next step is to have a second discussion to outline exactly what is required. If you haven’t got a section dedicated to this in your staff handbook, then now is a good chance to include information on hand washing and personal presentation in the workplace. If a further discussion is required, then it will likely be necessary to proceed with disciplinary action against the employee.

Although no-one in an office environment enjoys this type of challenge, it’s an important issue to deal with rapidly to safeguard the health and wellbeing of your fellow colleagues as well as protecting your business image.