Hand hygiene has never been more important. Washing hands with soap and water regularly throughout the day will reduce the risk of catching or spreading viruses. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions are essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks.
These days, despite a huge shift to remote working, many employees are being encouraged to return to the office. While the willingness to return varies from country to country, one thing is clear, despite offices restricting the number of employees in an office at any one time, in such conditions, germs and illnesses can still easily spread.
Could employers do more to reassure staff that it’s safe to return to the office? While it can be argued that the responsibility for clean hands lies with the individual, satisfactory washroom conditions and educating people about efficient hand hygiene can play an important part in promoting positive action.
1) Washing hands regularly and thoroughly helps to reduce and remove potentially harmful bacteria and viruses. Our research shows that fingertips and thumbs often get missed during hand washing, so here’s a handy guide to getting it right.
2) Ensure hand washing or sanitising facilities are accessible. Ensure dispensers are positioned at the entrances/exits and high traffic areas, such as reception areas or points of sale.
3) Simple initiatives, like reminders near sinks and basins that encourage workers to wash, dry and sanitise their hands, and discouraging the use of smartphones in the washroom, can make a difference. A smartphone taken into the washroom will invariably end up with germs on it. People who pick up their phone after washing their hands are immediately undoing their good work and could be placing themselves and their colleagues needlessly at risk.
4) In washrooms, the use of kind yet effective soaps that don’t strip out natural oils will benefit people who refuse to use soap due to its skin-drying nature. Consider installing automatic no-touch soap dispensers and sanitisers, too, which help to promote hand hygiene by eliminating the need for contact and – subsequently – the spread of germs. No-touch paper and linen dispensers for hand-drying also lower the risk of recontamination by reducing the amount of moisture and microorganisms left on the hands after washing.
5) Hand sanitisers to combat spreading should also be easily available around the office. It’s important to place them in and around areas such as washrooms, entrances and exits, desks, kitchens and other high traffic areas. Not only will this help to stop the spread of germs, but it will also help to improve the image of your business.
6) Businesses should ensure regular, thorough cleaning takes place in communal office areas, such as the kitchen and reception. Spray and surface wipes can kill pathogens and prevent cross-contamination, providing up to 24-hour protection for high-usage items such as light switches, stair rails and desks.
7) It’s recommended that companies undertake a professional deep-clean at least twice a year to prevent the build-up of hidden dirt. WINNS is also able to educate staff on correct hand washing procedures to minimise the spread of germs from hands to surfaces.
A lack of hand washing facilities or awareness programmes puts individuals at risk of transmission of viruses, such as COVID-19, between people. If cleaner, more hygienic facilities encourage better habits among staff, employers should think about investing in them while staff should consider the impact good hand hygiene can have on colleagues.
Proper investment in workplace hygiene facilities will not only benefit a business by introducing a safer working environment for employees, providing reassurance that it's safe to return to the office, but it may also see businesses experience an increase in productivity as a result.