Regular hand washing is an important hygienic practice that reduces the spread of infection and improves people’s health. That’s not news. A recent survey that asked people how often they go to work sick, is news, however. The importance of hand washing in a work environment with sick people cannot be overly emphasized. The survey found that nearly 60 percent of employees go in to work even when they are ill. Thirty percent said they felt compelled to go to the office because they played an essential role in the company.
While going to work despite feeling under the weather might seem like a way to continue contributing to the workplace, it could actually have the opposite effect. Not only is the ill person’s productivity compromised, they also put their fellow employees at risk of infection, which could have a much larger impact on company-wide productivity.
Spreading Infection in the Workplace
Elevator buttons, faucet handles, copier interfaces, water coolers—workplaces are full of high touch surfaces that are hot spots for germs, dirt, bacteria, and viruses. Touching one of these surfaces after an infected person does is all it takes to encounter microbes that could compromise your health and your productivity.
Several studies have highlighted that break rooms, eating areas, and restrooms are places workers can be exposed to contaminants. It’s impossible to make everyone with a sniffle or cough stay at home instead of coming into work (and many people don’t have the option of time off), but you can modify your own preventative care behavior, which includes regular hand washing.
Washing, wiping, and sanitizing high touch areas, keeping personal work stations clean, and washing hands regularly are the most effective methods of preventing workplace infection. The previously cited survey revealed that many American workers are getting the message:
- 79 percent say that they wash their hands after touching or talking with a sick coworker.
- 97 percent wash their hands after using the restroom.
- 81 percent clean their work stations to prevent germ build-up.
Preparing for Flu Season
With flu and cold season on the horizon, preparing to stay healthy is especially important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorized last year’s flu season as an epidemic. You can take care of yourself and help maintain a productive workplace by taking the following steps:
- Say something. Let your manager or human resources department know that by keeping restrooms clean, regularly sanitizing high traffic areas, and educating employees, infections can be reduced.
- Wash your hands. Wash them before and after you eat. Wash them after using the restroom. Wash them after touch germ hot spots in your office. And wash them after using the break room.
- If you’re sick, stay home. You’ll recover faster and you won’t put your coworkers at risk, keeping your workplace productive.
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