Staff sickness issues – 7 ways to improve office hygiene

Author: Nick Butt   |   Date: 13th March 2018

When working in an office it is unfortunately often the case that when one person catches a cold or sickness bug, it quickly spreads around the rest of the staff, and having lots of people off sick can have a profound impact on a business – as well as the health of the staff.

In the UK around 34 million working days per year are lost due to minor ailments such as coughs and colds, according to the latest statistics – that’s around 24% of all days taken off sick. This costs businesses money and can cause staffing problems among those left at work as well.

So it’s important to take hygiene seriously – and in the office it’s often not given a second thought due to all of the other work and deadlines taking place. However, it needn’t be complicated or time- consuming. Here are seven key ways to improve hygiene and reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses in the work place:

1. Think about your hands

Whether you work with 10 people or 1000 people, there are common areas in offices which everyone will touch many times a day, and spreading germs from hand to surface to hand, is one of the most common ways in which people get sick.

In an office, how many people touch the lift buttons, the stair handrails, the bathroom door handles, the office door handles, the desks, the telephones and the toilet seats. If people are carrying germs and all touching all of these surfaces, it’s no wonder offices can become a breeding ground.

Be aware of where you put your hands, and who else has put their hands there before you. Using anti-bacterial hand wipes and hand gel regularly can really help to stop the spread of germs from co-worker to colleague.

2. Employ a professional cleaner

A workplace should be professionally cleaned on a daily basis, to ensure that all floors, surfaces, bathroom areas and kitchen areas are disinfected and cleaned properly and effectively. Coming in to a clean and sparkling workplace can help boost employee morale and motivation as well, so it’s good for hygiene, can reduce sickness and improve productivity – a win-win all round.

3. Provide personal workspace facilities

Staff should have facilities to enable them to keep their own personal work areas clean, so places to dispose of waste, ways to wipe up spillages or clear crumbs. Anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning desks at the end of the day, can go a long way to keeping individual areas germ-free, particularly if you have staff who share desks.

4. Keep communal areas clean

Make sure there is a rota or plan in place to keep areas clean where staff make drinks or prepare food during the day. Mugs, spoons and other implements should all be washed up daily and not left lying around for bacteria to breed in. Ideally a communal dishwasher is the best way to keep office kitchenware clean. These areas should also have disposable cloths and soap available, for people to wash and dry items, but avoid using sponges and wash cloths where possible.

5. Encourage sick staff to stay home

While staff might want to keep working while taking medication, there is nothing more off-putting than listening to co-workers coughing and sneezing around the office so try to create a culture where people can work from home, or feel happy taking a sick day when needed. It can really help to stop others falling ill and causing major problems for the business. If staff have experienced sickness or diarrhoea they should stay away for 48 hours to avoid infecting their colleagues.

6. Handwashing facilities

The number of people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet is still astonishing so make it as easy as possible. Put posters regarding hand hygiene on the backs of the toilet doors and in the washing area to remind people, and provide easy to use soap dispensers, hand towels and hand dryers. Make sure the bathrooms are kept clean and hygienic at all times and regularly inspected.

7. Personal hygiene code

As part of the staff handbook make sure your office has a personal hygiene code which includes the expected standards from all staff when it comes to how they conduct themselves in the office with regard to personal hygiene.

These seven tips can help improve office hygiene for any kind of company and hopefully go some way to alleviating the pressures caused when staff are off sick at the same time. Keeping the building clean by using professional services is the crucial step.

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