By Fabio Vitali
The most important component of any work environment is its people. Thankfully, there are ways that businesses can make a significant positive impact on the health and safety, productivity, and satisfaction of employees. One of them is by providing a clean and hygienic workplace, from cubicles to common areas to restrooms. To reap the benefits of a clean workplace, facility managers and building service contractors (BSCs) should understand the relationship between cleanliness and employee wellness, as well as simple but effective tips for maintaining these environments.
Employee Health and Safety
Keeping a work environment clean offers numerous benefits related to employee health and safety, including:
- Preventing the spread of germs and illness. Offices can become a significant source of bacteria if they are not cleaned regularly. According to a 2014 study, a virus sample placed on a doorknob and tabletops in an office spread to 40-60 percent of workers and visitors within just 2-4 hours. Frequently and thoroughly cleaning high-touch surfaces, like door handles, phones and desks, will prevent germs from spreading and causing widespread illness.
- Reducing stress and anxiety. Workplace design and appearance should not be overlooked, as cluttered workspaces, dirty restrooms, and unkempt common areas can increase stress and anxiety levels among employees. This can then have a negative impact on office morale. Provide employees with a clean workplace to help them feel more organized and focused.
- Decreasing the risk of accidents or injuries. Cleanliness can help prevent or reduce the occurrence of slips, trips, and falls in the workplace. For example, addressing spills and leaks quickly and keeping entrances and exits clear will improve safety, thereby reducing lost time injuries and costly lawsuits.
Increased Productivity and Satisfaction
Sick days cost businesses $225.8 billion annually in the United States. By keeping the work environment clean – and therefore supporting employee health – fewer work days are lost to preventable illness. Employees are more appreciative of and less distracted by working environments that are clean and free of clutter and foul smells. This results in increased productivity and even higher quality work.
In addition to boosting productivity, cleanliness can result in heightened overall workplace satisfaction and a stronger culture. No one wants to work in a dirty office environment. In fact, according to the 2017 Healthy Hand Washing Survey , 89 percent of Americans believe the condition of a workplace restroom is one indicator of how a company values its workforce. Regular cleaning of restrooms and other key areas in the workplace will ensure that hygiene remains at the forefront and doesn’t go unnoticed by employees and visitors. Plus, there’s an added bonus of happier employees. A 2015 study found that they are 12 percent more productive, while unhappy employees are 10 percent less productive.
Tips for Maintaining Workplace Cleanliness
Facility managers and BSCs should consider the following tips to keep workplaces clean at all times:
- Conduct top-to-bottom cleaning. Top down cleaning helps reduce cross contamination and the need to re-clean areas. For example, air vents, windows, and walls should be the first focus. In cubicle areas and conference rooms, tabletops, phones and chairs should be cleaned next, and floors should be cleaned last. In restrooms, the second focus should be cleaning sinks and toilets, and then mopping and drying the floors.
- Choose products carefully. It’s important to invest in high-quality and sustainable restroom products to reduce waste while supporting cleanliness. For example, today there is toilet paper that produces safe enzymes to eat away dirt when it makes contact with water. This paper, which is safe for users and the environment, helps to sanitize pipes and septic tanks to reduce the occurrence of costly plumbing issues while also fighting unpleasant odors. Meanwhile, some paper towels are designed to be flushed away, dissolving like toilet paper to reduce clogs.
Sustainable cleaning products are also key, as they can limit exposure to potentially dangerous or irritating chemicals. Look for ready-to-use disinfecting sprays or wipes that are non-toxic but still have the power to kill bacteria lurking on surfaces.
- Restock supplies regularly. Conduct regular stock checks and replace key items like disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and toilet paper before they run out to avoid hygiene disasters. During times of increased illness, such as winter, consider having extra supplies stocked in the event of an influenza or norovirus outbreak.
- Use signage to promote common sense measures. In order to keep a clean workplace in pristine condition, it’s important to have support from employees. Consider posting signage that promotes handwashing, shielding sneezes and coughs, and staying home if illness strikes.
Holding a workplace to a high standard of hygiene may seem challenging at first, but it is ultimately rewarding for everyone involved. That’s because cleanliness benefits more than just the physical appearance of a work environment. A clean workplace can have a positive impact on employee health and safety, productivity, and satisfaction, making regular and thorough maintenance a no-brainer.