By Carrie Schuster
During cold and flu season, it is common for employees to ask themselves: Should I come to work sick or stay home and rest? While many employees muster up the energy to go into the office due to a perceived stigma around taking sick days, studies show that coming to work with an illness actually reduces workplace productivity.
In the U.S. alone, it costs employers $227 billion in lost productivity when employees show up to work but are unable to perform at their best.¹
With cold and flu season in full swing, viruses can spread a number of ways—from contaminated inanimate objects such as doorknobs and tabletops to a simple handshake with a coworker.
Fortunately, facilities professionals can take preventive measures to mitigate the spread of germs. Here are just a few ways to keep your facility healthy and hygienic this flu season.
Unleash The Power Of Hand Washing
Often overlooked, the simple act of hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease.² Furthermore, hand washing can have a positive impact on how people around you feel and behave. According to a recent survey from Essity, maker of the Tork brand, 8 out of 10 people say knowing that people around them wash their hands properly would have a positive impact on their state of mind. Furthermore, almost half of the respondents said they would be more comfortable shaking hands if they knew that others had proper hand hygiene.
To ensure employees are washing their hands correctly, proper signage is crucial. Facility managers should post signs in restrooms reminding visitors to wash their hands with lukewarm water and soap, scrubbing all sides, fingertips and fingernails, and to dry with a paper towel. The paper towel should also be used to turn off the faucet handles and to grab the door handle upon exiting to further reduce the spread of germs. Patrons should be encouraged to wash their hands after coughing and sneezing, before and after eating, after using the restroom, and before and after touching trash.
Strategic Dispenser Placement
While almost all restrooms are equipped with soap and towel dispensers, they may not be placed in an ideal area. In fact, studies show that optimizing dispenser placement can increase usage by over 50 percent and has a much greater impact than increasing the number of dispensers.³
Dispenser placement is especially important in environments such as hospitals, where germs can spread quickly. In addition to restrooms, soap and towel dispensers should be placed in patient rooms, nurse stations, and other areas where patients and caregivers are frequently present.
Educate And Innovate
It is important that restrooms and other places where sinks are located, such as kitchens, have clear signage reminding employees and patrons to wash their hands. Having simple reminders for guests to wash their hands before exiting a restroom can go a long way in preventing the spread of illness in high-traffic venues such as schools, transportation hubs and restaurants.
Understanding that clean hands benefit others can make people more willing to wash their hands. According to the Power of Hands Survey, 23 percent of people would wash their hands more often if they knew it would have a positive impact on others.
Furthermore, facility managers can support hand hygiene by installing touch free, one-at-a-time dispensers that prevent users from touching more than the paper towel they need. By harnessing technology to improve guest experiences, facility managers can work more efficiently and make better business decisions.
³ Thomas BW, Berg-Copas GM, Vasquez DG, Jackson BL, Wetta-Hall R. Conspicuous vs Customary Location of Hand Hygiene Agent Dispensers on Alcohol-Based Hand Hygiene Product Usage in an Intensive Care Unit. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2009;109(5):263-267
Carrie Schuster is Brand Communications Manager of Sustainability, Hygiene and Services for Essity, a global leader in hygiene and health, and the makers of the Tork brand of professional hygiene products. Carrie consults and partners with customers to develop programs with the goal of achieving sustainability through zero waste, closed-loop recycling and composting initiatives, as well as hand washing and hygiene education.