As winter sets in, a healthy workforce and maintaining a high level of office hygiene are key for employers across the UK.
From colds and flu spread by coughs and sneezes, to cases of norovirus (an extremely infectious stomach bug), businesses should prepare for an increase in ailments during the colder seasons.
Employees on sick leave, even for one or two days, have the potential to infect others due to the spread of viruses due to lower office hygiene can impact dramatically on workplace productivity.
“For small business owners, having just one employee off work due to illness can have a big impact on the day-to-day running of the business. Teams are at their most productive when everybody is healthy, happy and able to fulfil their roles,” explains Mike Davis, head of SME Direct Acquisition from AXA PPP healthcare.
In fact, according to Office Hygiene National Statistics, minor illnesses such as stomach bugs, colds and flu accounted for 34 million days of sick leave last year (2017).
Keeping your workplace clean and increasing levels of office hygiene are just two ways to reduce absenteeism, as viruses can spread quickly. A study by the University of Arizona in an 80-person office building found that one infected employee had left droplets of a (non-harmful) virus on more than half of the commonly touched surfaces in the office within four hours. In addition, half of the employees in the office with him had also become infected with at least one virus.
Office Furniture Hygiene including Office Desk’s and Office Chairs
A UK study has found that on average phones are the most contaminated item on the office desk. Dr Charles P Gerba found over 25,000 organisms per surface.
Comparisons with other surveys reveal that some typical office desk items could be around seven times more contaminated than traditionally ‘dirty’ items such as toilet seats, which often get more attention for cleaning.
So, if you share desk equipment and hot desk, you’ll have more chance of being infected by other people’s germs.
You won’t drop dead by using the phone, but you should think about how dirty your hands may be after picking up the receiver. If you chew pens – and many of us do – think about where they have been before!
Toilet and Bathroom Hygiene
Worryingly, over a quarter (27%) of UK employees admit to not washing their hands every time they visit the washroom increasing the chance of germs and bacteria spreading across the workforce. Gentle reminders for employees to wash hands thoroughly and regularly, particularly after going to the toilet, before handling food and after coughing, sneezing or blowing their noses can prompt good hygiene standards and help prevent the spread of bugs and viruses.
Kitchen and Breakout Area Hygiene
If food is not stored correctly, or someone who is ill has touched a product, foods can become contaminated and cause food poisoning. Symptoms pass in a few days but can be detrimental to your office productivity levels if more than one colleague comes down with the illness at the same time. As a team, you should encourage employees to hygienically clean surfaces immediately after use and clear crumbs and left over food to keep germs at bay. Foot-operated bins are also better for hygiene because they reduce the risk of hands picking up germs when they touch the bin lid.