The Big Taboo: Office Hygiene

Addressing someone’s personal hygiene is always a sensitive and tricky issue, especially when it is required to be dealt with in a professional environment. While you don’t want to run the risk of upsetting or insulting a member of your team, it is unreasonable to expect the rest of the workforce or clients to sit tight and accept it.

2015 has certainly been the year to bring our nations level of hygiene into the public eye – with some shocking statistics;

  • 25% of adults only brush their teeth once a day
  • 21% of women don’t shower or bath every day
  • 25% of office workers do not wash their hands at every trip to the washroom
  • The average office desk is 400 times dirtier than the average toilet seat

So how do you approach the issue? The first step is to eliminate any office gossip surrounding the member of staff as this is neither helpful nor productive and could end up being damaging for all involved. While some people may simply have lower standards than most when it comes to personal hygiene, there are also underlying medical conditions that are difficult to manage that may explain the issue; regardless of the cause the way that it should be approached remains the same. The office may become a claustrophobic and confrontational space, so having a meeting in a neutral location over coffee or lunch makes for a much more relaxed atmosphere.

It’s vital that you are clear and direct to ensure that the message you are trying to convey cannot be misunderstood or misconstrued in any way. However to soften the blow, remain empathetic and show understanding, replace sentences that start with “you are” for ones that begin with “I feel” to avoid the induvial becoming defensive. Communicating clear expectations and standards provides a level of guidance for what they are required to achieve and what is acceptable – it also gives you a clear HR path to take should things not improve.

Along with personal hygiene, there are other workplace hygiene standards that are questionable! The office can be a breeding ground for germs and viruses doing the rounds; as well as paying attention to the common practice such as washing our hands, covering our mouth when we cough or sneeze but it’s vital that our hygiene extends into tech realms.

It has been reported that office telephones can hold up to 25127 microbes* and a keyboard can harbour around 3295*. With these shocking stats in mind it’s no wonder that 68% of office workers have accepted that they will catch the office bug. Having antibacterial hand gel and wipes for employees to wipe their equipment regularly could potentially stop the level of productivity and profitability drop in the winter months when sickness prevails.

As with many personal traits, we could all use a reality check sometimes so with the theme of this article in mind, why not take the quiz below to see how ‘dirty’ you are!

*per square inch


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