Discussing hygiene in the workplace can be a touchy subject for many. No one wants to be accused of not practicing good hygiene, and supervisors generally do not want the ‘dirty work’ of telling their employees they aren’t meeting personal grooming standards. For many, the subject of hygiene is embarrassing and dirty, but maintaining hygienic practices in the workplace is an integral part of keeping employees healthy and safe.
There are four basic workplace hygiene practices that should be maintained: employee personal hygiene, work area cleanliness; restroom facility cleanliness; and clean breakroom, kitchen, and eating areas.
Having a hygienic workplace is essential to employee health and safety. When employees are healthy, they are less likely to be absent from work. According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, poor health can cost U.S. businesses up to $530 billion per year. By practicing proper work hygiene, employees can stop the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses.
Personal grooming standards are an important part of hygiene. All employees should be responsible for their hygiene. Many employers enforce a personal hygiene policy for all employees. Personal hygiene means showering, arriving at the workplace in clean, neat clothing, using deodorants, grooming facial hair, washing hands after using the restroom, keeping hair clean and pulled away from the face, and keeping fingernails clean and trimmed. Other hygiene practices can be noted or excused depending on the type of job tasks being performed or special circumstances. For example, employees should wash their hands and clean protective equipment used while working with hazardous chemicals. In special cases, employers may choose to allow employees to wear old t-shirts or clothing with stains if they are meant to work outside or in strenuous conditions where nicer clothing wouldn’t be appropriate.
Working in a clean environment can help make employees more productive and focused on their job tasks. When things are organized, clean, and ready for use, employees shouldn’t struggle with using tools and equipment. They also shouldn’t have to work around piles of clutter or garbage to get their job done.
The Integrated Benefits Institute found that employees are absent about 893 million days due to illness and incur an estimated 527 million lost workdays due to impaired performance. Wiping down and sanitizing work surfaces can prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses and reduce the number of infections and illnesses spread through the workplace.
One area of the workplace prone to collecting bacteria and viruses are the bathrooms. Employers should provide hand soap, toilet paper, and hand drying towels or blowers. Signage on proper handwashing techniques and other personal hygiene expectations should be posted around restroom facilities. Depending on who is responsible for maintaining bathroom cleanliness, a log sheet should be kept handy that would allow employees to check when the last time the facilities were cleaned. If employees are required to clean the restrooms themselves, this sheet can help document specific cleaning instructions and procedures. Businesses that hire an outsourced cleaning service may still want to keep a restroom hygiene policy on file that lists details about what types of cleaning supplies and chemicals are appropriate for use, how frequently the company should come to clean, and documentation on who to contact in the event the restroom needs immediate service.
Cleaning procedures and other documentation should be kept on file for businesses that have break rooms, kitchens, and other common areas as part of the workplace. Employees benefit from having areas to prepare lunches, take breaks, and socialize with their coworkers. These areas are a nice thing to have but can quickly become infested with germs. Like restroom cleaning policies, if employees are responsible for cleaning these areas themselves, posted signage and specific hygiene instructions should be made available. For businesses that prepare food or have a commercial kitchen, different regulations apply depending on State and industry.
Other than reducing the spread of illnesses and infections, maintaining a hygienic workplace offers many benefits. Clean workplaces that take hygiene seriously benefit from:
- Happier employees
- Presentable image to clients and customers
- Healthier employees
- Reduction in slips, trips, and falls
Every workplace needs to be hygienic. Employees should be responsible for their hygiene. In some cases, they should be held accountable for maintaining the cleanliness of their work areas and the common spaces throughout the workplace. A clean workplace contributes to the health and wellbeing of employees. Maintaining hygiene policies and regular office cleaning schedules can prevent illness-causing bacteria and infections and reduce the number of sick days taken by employees.