How to Maintain a Hygienic Workplace

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The connection between the workplace and employee well-being is more important than ever. HR managers need to put in place a comprehensive plan for how the office will operate and be an attractive destination for employees.

At the heart of this will be engaging with employees and responding to their expectations and concerns. In anticipation of winter when there are more viruses and it is more difficult to ventilate spaces, hygiene will be a major concern for many employees.

Hygiene and cleanliness
Many people are likely to be anxious about going to the office due to hygiene and cleanliness issues. As The HR Director reported last April, cleanliness topped the list of employee concerns.

We are perhaps a year after this study, but the concerns have not changed. The pandemic has opened everyone’s eyes to the importance of cleanliness and hygiene and people want to know that their workplace is safe.

Demonstrating this must be part of the overall wellbeing strategy and will be essential not only to encourage employees to return to the office, but also to retain and attract talent.

The good news is that many companies seem to recognize the importance of cleanliness. A recent report from the FMJ says search terms such as “workplace health and wellness” and “commercial office cleaning” have seen a surge over the past year.

It’s a good sign but it’s only the first step. Cleanup programs need to be much more science-based than they were before the pandemic. This includes collecting data, cleaning high-risk touchpoints more frequently, and demonstrating the results to employees.

A comprehensive program is needed, with buy-in from facilities management and human resources teams.

Use a workplace hygiene program
We believe that the ideal workplace hygiene program should include three fundamental pillars: science, technology and people.

Science is of course a fundamental part of any post-pandemic cleaning regimen. Gone are the days of cleaners arriving after hours to perform superficial cleaning.

Now, cleanliness isn’t just about whether something looks clean: it’s about testing for bacteria and focusing on hygiene. TVC swabbing can be used to check bacteria levels in different areas and adjust cleaning schedules if necessary. Cleaners can be notified of areas that have higher counts and spend more time in those locations.

Swabbing can be done in a mix of agreed and random sites over time. This will help paint a picture of workplace hygiene and ensure that cleaning regimes can be adjusted if necessary.

We have used our workplace hygiene programme, PRISM, at our customer sites across the UK which has provided us with data to identify trends. An analysis of over 2,000 swabs from 27 locations showed that the top five high-risk touchpoints are:

  • Men’s toilet door handle
  • Lift buttons
  • Sink faucets
  • Door handles in common areas
  • Fridge handles

This will of course vary between companies and sites, but it’s a great example of how data can inform decision-making – and the role technology has to play.

Data-driven decisions
Technology can play a role not only in data, but also in how cleaners are engaged, reporting for management teams, and even empowering employees in the hygiene process.

QR codes can be placed around the office for cleaners to scan. Rather than following a fixed rotation each shift, they can scan the codes to receive clear instructions on what is required for that area.

Codes can also be scanned by employees to see when an area was last cleaned, request cleaning, or leave feedback. This makes employees an active part of the process and will help reassure them about the hygiene of their workspace.

All collected data can be fed instantly into a main dashboard that can be viewed by management teams at any time. This enables real-time access during meetings and rapid decision-making.

people first
The third pillar, and the most relevant for HR teams, is people.

Employees are at the heart of any back-to-office plan, and it’s no different when it comes to cleaning and hygiene. HR teams need to empathize with their employees’ concerns, which can range from office hygiene to being in a fully occupied office.

Businesses need to be in constant conversation with their staff as the situation is constantly changing, so workplace plans will need to too.

When considering investing in a workplace hygiene program, consider whether it will address employee concerns and how this will be communicated.

A cost-benefit analysis of the investment versus the cost of recruitment and retention would be a sensible exercise. Hygiene issues will not go away after Covid, as we are all much more aware of the importance of a hygienic workplace.

A transversal approach
Breaking down departmental silos is essential for all elements of returning to the office. Human resources and facilities teams must be in regular contact and work together to ensure that a hygiene program is not only successful, but that it is demonstrated to employees.

Failure to do so could see employees avoid the office – or leave altogether.

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