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How offices can scrub up their washroom standards

01 March 2019

A recent Office Depot survey revealed the alarmingly low levels of concern demonstrated by both employers and employees surrounding washroom hygiene in UK offices. The company's head of cleaning, hygiene and catering, George Hand, identifies the most concerning findings from the research and explains how businesses can bring their washrooms up to scratch

Working in an office, it’s almost inevitable that you will have encountered someone with an illness, such as the common cold. Offices have a responsibility to ensure they are well-stocked with appropriate cleaning and hygiene products, which can in turn help prevent the spread of illness from colleague to colleague.

Curb the outbreak in bacteria

From our research however, it’s clear education is required around cleaning and hygiene products in the workplace. A shocking 30% of businesses failed to offer antibacterial handwash or soap. This is clearly unacceptable and should be concerning to businesses, especially as it leaves employees vulnerable to the likes of Salmonella, E. coli O157 and norovirus. Providing antibacterial handwash or soap is essential, but it’s also important to ensure appropriate levels of stock is available at all times for when washrooms are running low.

Address the lack of acceptable drying systems

Additionally, 22% of UK offices did not have an appropriate hand drying system in place. The Health and Safety Executive notes that employers must provide ‘toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer’, meaning many businesses could be breaking health and safety regulations. It is also worth noting that the survey does not specify whether the systems are hygienic, as some hand-dryers are much better than others. Companies are encouraged to check their existing systems, with regular performance testing, to ensure they meet UK standards.

Promote hygienic practices

The survey also showed that 45% of respondents claim to have seen a colleague fail to wash their hands after using the toilet. The chances of illness spreading is high as a result of this. The unhygienic practice is made worse by the 79% of people who have seen co-workers eat lunch at their desks. Simple steps can be made to promote best practice, such as erecting posters displaying workplace standards in washrooms, which can help offer reminders that employees are in a shared environment.

Protect the roll

Almost 30% of UK office-based businesses fail to provide a toilet roll dispensing system. Clearly this should be a worry, given the number of bacteria found on cubicle floors. The results from the survey should act as a catalyst for office-based businesses to ensure standards are high and maintained.

Provide a box of tissues

Only 8% of UK offices supply facial tissues to their employees. Evidently an item that is overlooked by businesses, facial tissues offer hygienic qualities that prevent the spread of germs. Offices should be encouraged to consider providing them to their employees as facial tissues can play a role in preventing the spread of illnesses. And if colleagues are coming into work with a cold, for example, then having this simple amenity can help.

What action should office-based businesses take? 

Businesses should be looking to audit their current systems annually as best practice. Whether it’s the janitorial products, washroom systems or cleaning equipment, audits are vital as they help ensure everything is running to company standards. Even if good hygiene practices are in place, companies should seek an audit, as it is easy to let standards slip or systems to become outdated.

The risk businesses face is that employees might not be working as productively as they can. Colleagues with an illness that feel pressure to come to work because of mounting to-do lists will not be able to work to their best ability. If they are coming to work, which is likely to happen, then offices need to be as prepared as they can to prevent the spread of illness to other employees.