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Hygiene in the workplace: ensuring staff are up to speed on health and hygiene at work

How to brief & teach your staff on hygiene & cleaning

Let’s face it, it’s been a fraught 18 months. Social-distancing, self-isolating, home-working…, for many of us the office has become a dim and distant memory.

But now it’s back. Some of us are being dragged kicking and screaming; others are literally cantering towards that open door. But whatever our feelings, there’s a joint responsibility we all recognise. A shared aim to keep bugs and viruses out, prevent the spread of disease, and ensure all employees stay healthy, as we settle back into the workplace.

Hygiene. Cleanliness. Sanitisation. The watchwords of a new age.

There’s arguably never been a more important time to consider hygiene at work, and for each and every one of us to take those extra steps to wipe down desks, keyboards, telephones, mice – all those workplace touchpoints – at regular intervals throughout the day, and with clinically proven products, as we look to eradicate both COVID-19, and other common viruses that typically spread within the office environment.

 

Making staff aware of the importance of hygiene

We’ve all read those stats about smartphones. How ‘perfect’ they are for the transmission of bacteria, viruses and fungal infection – to the extent that they’ve even been termed ‘Trojan Horses’, given their contribution to the spread of disease. Countless peer-reviewed studies have shown that over 2/3 of smartphones are contaminated: a figure almost certainly conservative given the research focused on bacteria and fungi, and largely neglected the impact of viruses.

We’ve read, and we’ve recoiled.

But office desks really aren’t much better, shown to contain several hundred times more pathogens than can be found on the average toilet seat. Research has shown that the average office desk can harbour as many as 10 million traces of bacteria and virus: Salmonella, e. coli, campylobacter, staphylococcus aureus, Norovirus – catalysts for common workplace infections like gastroenteritis, tuberculosis, flu, measles and chickenpox.

And if we stop to think about how the working day unfolds, then actually, this doesn’t come as an enormous surprise. Consider your own actions over the course of a morning in the office. The objects you touch. Those common objects you touch. Studies have shown that every 60 seconds, a working adult touches as many as 30 objects which may be contaminated by bacteria or viruses, causing infectious disease.

There’s no denying that the office is a veritable hotbed of infection – but there are steps you can take to hugely mitigate transmission, outlined within the bulleted list further below.

 

How to motivate staff to maintain a hygienic and disinfected workplace

Those desk hygiene stats are pretty damning. (And for those of you hot-desking, just reflect on how the figures skyrocket even further, as items typically considered ‘personal’ are shared by multiple users.)

Employees will now take for granted new, more rigorous cleaning regimes brought in by employers: cleaners conducting more frequent rounds; more visible hygiene notices in shared areas, like washrooms and kitchens.

But there’s an onus on employers to impress the importance of personal responsibility on their staff too: good hygiene in the workplace requires a commitment from all of us. Employers can facilitate this process through clear, visible reminders as staff go about their day – encouraging regular disinfecting of surfaces and worktops.

Our range of antibacterial workplace wipes cater for all those common office areas – meeting rooms, canteens, washrooms and workstations – and are ideally suited to business of all sizes, with bulk-purchasing options available on request.

Here’s a few pointers on how to ensure active involvement in the common aim of a hygienic workplace:

  • Product accessibility There are few truer statements than ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ – so maintaining that presence of cleaning products, in sight, at all times, will play a key role in the employee’s participation in hygiene at work. Remember, given the current climate, employers are highly unlikely to experience staff reluctance, so any lack of involvement or dedication will be down to time, or forgetfulness. 

Whilst we do provide handy wall dispensers for easy access, providing each desk with disinfectant wipes is highly encouraged, addressing both these issues: products constantly within eye-line, easily accessible, and conducive to quick, surface wipe-downs periodically throughout the day.

  • Shock and Awe As already mentioned, those workplace stats make for sobering reading, and there’s no harm in peppering a few choice soundbites around the office walls, reminding employees of why we’re all in this together. But clearly it doesn’t all need to be ‘stick’: a little ‘carrot’ goes a long way too. Offering incentives to employees who embrace the cause should be actively considered: Employee of the Month is probably taking it a little far, but gamifying the whole process is certain to encourage uptake.

The fundamental point to get across to staff is an understanding of what the actual bacteria and virus hotspots are around the office.., and these typically constitute the following:

  • Door handles 
  • Paper and ID card printers
  • Telephones
  • Keyboard/mouse
  • Stationary
  • Ear pods
  • Fridge/microwave
  • Kettle
  • Vending machine buttons

Essentially, touchpoints.

A fascinating study conducted by Dr Charles Gerba from the University of Arizona, as far back as 2014, showed just how quickly germs can spread around an office from a contaminated door handle. Within 2 to 4 hours, the virus could be detected on over half the workers and visitors in the facilities, and across commonly touched objects. It’s worth reminding staff that, whilst we may flinch at someone sneezing, the hands are the main vehicles for microbe transmission.

  • Efficacy Whilst we stress product accessibility and general visibility around the office, there’s little point sticking multi-purpose spray and some marigolds on every table and window-sill. Staff need to know that the products they’re using to maintain health and hygiene are effective against all of those common viruses and bacteria discussed – and particularly the increasingly transmissible SARS-CoV-2.

The Uniwipe range of antibacterial wipes are tested to the highest EN standards including EN14476, EN1276, EN13727, EN16615 and EN14561 – and products such as the Midi-Wipe Clinical are proven to kill 99.999% of viruses and bacteria in 30 seconds. This level of authoritative reassurance is clearly stated on each packet, ensuring that employees have genuine faith in the products they’re using.

  • Attendance Data This requires a little deep-diving into the company HR archives, but if available, those historic staff sickness stats can be employed to good effect as a motivational tool. Staff sickness costs the UK economy upwards of £75bn per year, and whilst not all of this is attributable to bacteria and viruses, poor hygiene in the workplace is an undeniable contributor. Increased levels of office sanitisation – with communal areas receiving regular attention from dedicated staff, rather than a single pass over at the end of the working day – will play a huge role in reducing employee sick days, and attendance data (and overall productivity) for any given month will soon start to show a noticeable increase, when compared with the previous year.

NB – It’s a little-known fact that this element of competition is already widely used throughout primary school education – where classes with the best term-time attendance are rewarded with pizza, cinema trips, movies….

  • Support Clearly staff cannot be expected to single-handedly carry out the fight, and an increased professional deep-cleaning presence will ensure morale remains high amongst employees. Regular deep cleans will maintain a high standard of health and hygiene in the workplace – a standard that might typically dip during the working day without the input from a committed workforce.

 

Establishing a routine.

For most of us, it’s now second nature to wash our hands regularly throughout the day. It’s a near subconscious routine that we’ve all grown accustomed to, vastly improving personal levels of cleanliness and hygiene, and an excellent practice to be carried forward into the workplace.  

So now, as we all resume our positions in offices across the country, there’s every opportunity for the employer to instil that same ‘absent-minded hygiene routine’ more widely within their staff. Just as we’re encouraged to walk around the office every so often to get the circulation going (a health initiative in itself), staff should adopt a similar practice of regularly wiping down desks, keyboards, phone handsets, mice, etc – something that will rapidly become customary to employees as they go about their day.

Indeed, through the implementation of these points above – high quality, effective products, proven to combat germs and mitigate sickness, readily available on desks and work surfaces around the office – staff will quickly assimilate this new cleaning routine into the working day without a second thought.



KEEP READING

You may be using antibacterial wipes wrong – read our article on the common mistakes you may be making when using antibacterial wipes.
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Your questions
answered

High traffic areas in a workplace could include computers/keyboards, chairs, door handles, stationery and shared appliances such as microwave, coffee machine, kettle and magazines.

Bactericidal wipes kill bacteria and a Virucidal wipes kill viruses. Often, if a product is only labelled as antibacterial it will not have a proven virus kill rate. Our Antibacterial & Virucidal wipes are tested to kill both bacteria and enveloped viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

Our range of antibacterial wipes are designed to evenly distribute the cleaning agent onto a surface, ensuring a sufficient coverage for killing germs and bacteria. If cloths and sprays are used, it can result in uneven coverage and therefore reduce the effectiveness of the product. There’s also a much higher chance of cross-contamination or spreading germs around, as the same cloth is used for multiple surfaces, rather than the single-use benefits of disposable wipes.

You can read our full blog on Wipes Vs Sprays here.