Workplace Hygiene: 4 Ways Germs Spread and Kill Your Workplace Productivity



Have you ever visited a workplace washroom and suddenly no longer felt the desire to go? A dirty toilet can put you off, and worse, cause you bladder infections for holding it in for too long simply because you don’t want to use the unhygienic office toilet.

Your workplace hygiene and cleanliness is of the utmost importance.

It isn’t just for creating a good impression, but also for ensuring that your employees’ safety, health and wellbeing is being safeguarded.

Maintaining a clean and hygienic workplace goes hand in hand with your employees’ productivity.

One way to ensure workplace hygiene is to stop germs from spreading. Maintain clean and hygienic washrooms, and you’ll be one step closer to a germ-free workplace.

To have a hygienic and clean washroom, you’ll need properly maintained toilets. Ensure that your employees have hand washing and drying facilities, provide the required consumables and have effective odour control mechanisms in place.

Have your washroom hygiene taken care of by qualified personnel through Managed Washroom Services.

Learn what germs are and four ways they can spread, killing your workplace productivity.

What Are Germs?

Germs are tiny microorganisms that can only be seen under a microscope. There are two types of disease-causing germs, bacteria and viruses. Most germs, such as Salmonella and hepatitis A, cause illnesses in humans.

Germs, just like humans and animals, need moisture, warmth and food to survive. They can access all these from various places, including food scraps, faecal matter, rubbish and our bodies, too.

However, human bodies harbour many helpful bacteria, including good gut bacteria, which allows our bodies to utilise the nutrients in the food we consume while making waste from what’s left over.

There are also good germs found in our environment, including the Lactobacillus germ. It ferments milk, turning it into yoghurt. There are also other germs that break down vegetable matter into compost.

You’ll encounter many harmful germs all over your workplace. They kill your employees’ productivity in these four ways:

#1 Way Germs Are Spread and Kill Your Workplace Productivity: Airborne

The air you are breathing in right now could be full of harmful bacteria and viruses. When people sneeze or cough around you without covering their mouths, they expose you and everyone in the workplace to harmful germs.

There is also the ‘sneeze effect’ in washrooms, meaning that a flush can spread germs around a stall, over the toilet paper and up to six metres from the toilet bowl. The sneeze effect can make germs spread to your hands and later onto other surfaces.

The initial ‘sneeze effect’ study was done by Dr Charles Gerba in 1975, and he entitled it Microbiological Hazards of Household Toilets. It demonstrated that when a toilet was flushed, it produced a cloud that could remain airborne for a maximum of two hours, travelling up to eight feet up and around the toilet.

He recommended that people should refrain from storing their toothbrush in the open and instead lock it up in a cabinet. You should also put the toilet lid down before flushing.

Other ways to deal with the sneeze effect is by:

  • Cleaning the washroom regularly and after a user had diarrhoea or vomited in it.
  • Keeping the wall and ceilings around the toilet clean.
  • Cleaning thoroughly, especially under the bowl’s rim and the bottom side of your toilet seat.

#2 Way Germs Are Spread: Contaminated Surfaces and Objects

Viruses and bacteria can survive on surfaces for up to 24 hours. Studies have also shown there are germs living on your computer keyboard as well as the mouse.

As you go about your work, you are likely to pick up some of the bacteria and pass it to your mouth or nose.

Washroom surfaces are one of the most contaminated areas in your workplace. People are exposed to bodily fluids and other wastes such as feminine products. If not properly maintained, these can spread germs.

Other surfaces full of germs include:

  • Doorknobs
  • Kitchen sponges
  • Faucet handles
  • Refrigerator handles

#3 Way Germs are Spread: Skin Contact

Skin contact is a common way germs are spread around the workplace, as every time you shake hands with a colleague, you are risking spreading or coming into contact with germs.

Even holding open a door for a colleague as a show of courtesy exposes you to germs!

Your hands carry up to 80 million bacteria per square centimetre after using the toilet. You can then transfer these germs from your hands to more than five surfaces or even 14 other objects in the office.

These germs can make you and/or your co-workers sick, keeping them out of the office as they recuperate either at home or the hospital. The result is decreased productivity in the office.

#4 Way Germs are Spread: Contaminated Food

Communal kitchens are breeding grounds for bacteria. Undercooked food and dirty kitchen surfaces are the biggest culprits. Kitchens receive high human traffic and the higher the number of people, the more germs there will be.

Norovirus is another threat in kitchens. Around 16% of people carry the norovirus without exhibiting any symptoms. They’ll feel healthy, but they might be spreading the microorganisms to other surfaces, including the kitchen, which in turn makes other people sick.

Why Good Hand Hygiene Is Important for Your Employee Productivity

To minimise employees’ sick leaves and their productivity, you should start with good hand hygiene.

Why Hand Hygiene Is Paramount in the Workplace

People become ill from using shared washrooms. Bacteria and viruses common in washrooms are the biggest culprits.

Common stomach infections are caused by Salmonella, Gastrointestinal viruses, respiratory organisms and Escherichia coli. When your employees are exposed to bad health conditions, they become less productive.

There is also the risk of spreading illnesses to other healthy co-workers. Handwashing is considered the most basic step in becoming more healthy.

You can improve your overall workplace productivity by practising good hand hygiene.

According to various studies, regular and proper handwashing greatly reduces cases of people getting sick with diarrhoea and respiratory diseases. For companies, hand washing results in higher productivity and fewer employee sick days.

When Should You Wash Your Hands While at Work?

There are people who don’t know the importance of proper hand hygiene to stop the spread of harmful germs that can make people ill. Here are some instances when you should wash your hands while at work to stay healthy and ensure the health of others around you.

  • After visiting the washroom
  • After coming into contact with old printed materials
  • Before and after meetings
  • After using shared equipment
  • After using borrowed devices or tools

Maintain High Levels of Hand Hygiene to Increase Workplace Productivity

Proper hand hygiene offers an easy, effective and affordable way to stop the spread of germs and keep your workers healthy. A healthier working environment makes your employees more productive.

Make use of posters to remind your employees of the importance of handwashing.

By promoting good hand hygiene, you will benefit from good employee health and your business productivity.

How to Keep Germs From Spreading

To stop germs from spreading and killing your workplace productivity, consider cleaning the most affected areas. These include the kitchen area and your washrooms where germs are more likely to spread.

Disinfect your kitchen and washroom and have it sanitised frequently. Train your staff to always dry surfaces such as chopping boards and worktops after cleaning them.

Leaving these surfaces damp helps germs to thrive and even multiply if the moisture is enough.

Encourage your employees to practice good hand hygiene. They should always wash their hands before handling food and after visiting the toilet among the other aforementioned instances.

This will help stop germs from spreading and affecting your workplace productivity negatively.

Embrace Good Hygiene and Sanitation

Maintaining a clean and hygienic workplace doesn’t have to be rocket science, as you don’t have to worry about every little detail.

If you are in New Zealand, let Alsco take care of all your workplace washroom needs. We have vast experience in delivering exceptional managed rental services for different industries.

Our services include:

  • Hygiene
  • Linen
  • Uniforms
  • Consumables
  • First aid
  • Floorcare
  • And more

Get in touch with Alsco today for a customised quote to suit your business needs.


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Disclaimer – These articles are provided to supply general health, safety, and green information to people responsible for the same in their organisation. The articles are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs.