Ever wondered how valuable workplace cleanliness is? The answer is a whopping $11.4 billion.
That’s how much Australian businesses fork out each year because of poor office hygiene. Of that cost, $5.4 billion accounts for lost earnings, with office workers taking 1.6 sick days a year because of substandard hygiene.
A further $6 billion is lost because of delays caused by employees avoiding dirty work areas. Employees spend 2.2 days a year doing such things as queuing for the cleanest toilet cubicle or heading out of the office for coffee rather than making one in an unclean kitchen.
The research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, commissioned by cleaning company Initial Hygiene, shows one in four workers do not wash their hands after going to the toilet.
Filthy practices like this help create such dirty office hot spots as:
• The phone, which is the most contaminated object on a desktop;
• The desk, which on average has 400 times more bacteria than a typical toilet seat, and
• Bathroom door handles, common spots for salmonella and campylobacter, which can both cause gastroenteritis when germs are transferred from surface to hand.
What’s the most disgusting place in your office? Post a comment and let us know.
Initial Hygiene spokeswoman Natalie Howard says businesses should pay more attention to cleanliness in the workplace.
“Almost every business has the opportunity to improve its bottom line simply by providing better hygiene facilities,” she says.
“Initial’s report demonstrates that if employers invest the money in hygienic workplace facilities they will reap the benefit with a reduction in absenteeism and an increase in productivity.”
The study found that two in five employees said they would find greater job satisfaction if workplace hygiene improved. A clean office was so important to some workers that they said they would be willing to pay $240 a year (or $5 a week) for a more hygienic workplace.
Self-confessed “clean freak” Bree Robbins is acutely aware of the importance of hygiene in the workplace.
Robbins runs Queensland’s Paddington Pups, a doggie daycare, pet grooming and puppy preschool business. Shortly after buying the company five years ago, Robbins researched thorough cleaning techniques and began using a human and pet-safe antibacterial fogging treatment commonly used in childcare centres.
She says the cost of constant cleaning was significant, but totally worthwhile.
“I have 10 staff and they’ve only had three sick days in the past 12 months,” Robbins says.
“If the dogs get ill, it doesn’t spread throughout the pack.”
In the Adelaide offices of Cashflow Manager, employees have ready access to antibacterial wipes and hand sanitisers.
Marketing manager Carolyn Stephens says cleanliness is a top priority at the small business software company, particularly among call centre workers.
“We can’t afford to have people off sick, especially in a call centre, because it puts a lot of pressure on the other staff,” she says.
Workers are encouraged to wipe their desks, phones and headsets and clean their hands after visiting the toilet or going on a smoke break.
“We’ve seen a definite improvement within the office, with people using the wipes and hand sanitiser,” Stephens says.
“It’s not a significant amount of money to spent and it definitely helps.”
Tips for keeping a clean workplace:
• Communicate the importance of a clean workplace with staff. Ask them to do simple things such as washing their hands after going to the toilet, coughing or sneezing.
• Consider a staff cleaning roster to keep shared areas, particularly the kitchen, clean and tidy.
• Make hand sanitisers easily accessible to kill germs and help prevent the spread of infection. Make sure employees know where they are.
• Encourage staff to clean up after themselves in common areas such as kitchens, lunchrooms and meeting areas.
• Ensure rubbish is regularly cleared and bins aren’t overflowing.
• Speak privately with any workers who are not maintaining clean standards. They may be unaware their practices are affecting their own and coworkers’ health. Discuss strategies to keep their work areas tidier to keep them healthy and more productive.