How to Address Hygiene Issues in the Workplace
Even before the pandemic, the workplace was a breeding ground for germs spreading. Any place where people from different households and backgrounds converge from day-to-day becomes a place where personal hygiene goes from a personal issue to a workplace health and safety matter. But since the pandemic threw into such sharp relief just how critical workplace hygiene is for keeping all employees safe on the job while also protecting the public they interface with, many decision-makers have had to weigh new workplace hygiene policies and how to follow through on them sensitively and effectively. Here, we provide tips on handling workplace hygiene issues correctly.
1. Create a Workplace Hygiene Policy
A good place to begin is to have a written, clearly publicized, and discussed workplace hygiene policy. If you don’t already have one, craft one based on long-standing guidance from local, state, and national public health departments. Some items that you might consider including in your workplace hygiene policy include:
Train all employees on what proper hand washing protocol is and make it part of the policy. Hands should be washed frequently, especially after using the restroom, blowing one's nose, before eating, etc.
Employees should come to work properly showered, groomed, and follow the established dress codes.
Employees should avoid wearing perfumes or colognes that can irritate or cause allergic reactions in others.
Desks and work areas should be cleaned and de-cluttered every day.
Employees should clean up after using the breakroom or kitchen and not leave food items overnight.
If public health authorities recommend it, consider a masking policy as well, particularly during high disease-transmission times of the year.
Having a clear, written, established workplace hygiene policy eliminates “what-if” questions and situations that can confuse people. It also helps employees understand your expectations, and helps keep your workers and customers healthier and safer.
2. Post Reminders in High-Visibility Areas
Have workplace hygiene posters located in high-visibility areas, and areas where workplace hygiene might be an issue: like the restrooms and break rooms or at hand sanitizer dispenser stations where they are easily visible by the vast majority of your workers. This helps solidify and remind workers about your hygiene policies for better compliance.
3. Back the Policy Up with Equipment and Action
Make sure to post hand sanitizer dispensers in strategic locations throughout your workplace. Make sure that all hand soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers are full and functional and that the janitorial staff takes care to do a thorough workplace disinfection sweep daily. Providing the tools your employees need to follow through with their part of the workplace hygiene policy, sends a message to them about how seriously you take it, and how seriously they should follow through on it.
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4. If Someone Isn’t Following the Workplace Hygiene Policy
But how do you address poor hygiene in the workplace? What if one employee tells on another employee not washing his or her hands after using the restroom? This can be one of the most difficult and unpleasant conversations HR has to have with people, but it’s necessary and it’s a health and safety issue. If you need to have this conversation with an employee, follow these guidelines:
Speak with the employee in private and keep the matter confidential. When inquiring about the hygiene issue, take the opportunity to also mention the employee's positive attributes as well (hard worker, positive attitude and contributions, etc.)
Don’t assume you know why the employee is having this hygiene problem. It might be caused by medical issues, personal problems, poor grooming habits, mental health problems, or even cultural differences. Be sensitive and don’t assume.
Listen to the employee’s reasons. If there is a disability or cultural issue that is at odds with your hygiene policy, work together on a reasonable accommodation that will lead to a win-win that enables them to engage with the policy more easily.
Document the discussion and the plan going forward. Set a timeline for following up, corrective actions, and consequences if the issue is not resolved.
5. Partner with a Workplace Hygiene Company
Working with a local workplace hygiene company can help make it easier for your employees to comply with your workplace hygiene policies. Loyal Workplace Hygiene Solutions in Northern Virginia provides companies with a wide range of products and services that can help make your workplace cleaner and safer for your customers and employees and their families and the community. Contact us today and let us know how we can help.
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