Hands-on approach: Hygiene good for business

Chelsea Wells
Chelsea Wells

It seems simple — something we’ve been told time after time, usually by nagging mothers before supper. But can a simple act of hygiene really improve business? Yes. This flu and cold season, emphasize to your employees the importance of washing hands.

Here’s why it’s a smart business move: Employees are less likely to get sick. It’s estimated that washing hands with soap and water can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by

21 percent and diarrheal illnesses by 31 percent. Germs on the hands cause illnesses because people touch their eyes, nose and mouth, transporting germs from the hands into the body. To help keep employees healthy, washing hands should routinely be emphasized and practiced in the workplace.

Doorknobs, countertops and telephones constitute breeding grounds for germs that causes illnesses to rapidly spread from person to person. Flu germs can live for hours on these surfaces. Even though we can’t see the pesky germs that makes us sick, they’re there and would love to make your body their new home. So, clean your hands after touching doorknobs or handrails, wiping or blowing your nose, using the bathroom or handling garbage as well as before eating. Protect yourself and co-workers from illness.

Not only does washing hands keep employees healthy and prevent the spread of illness, but also saves businesses money. Clean hands reduce absenteeism and improve productivity. Employees take less sick days when their environment is clean. Productivity also increases because when employees are sick, they don’t perform to their best.  Emphasizing the importance of hand washing to your employees is a cost-effective way to keep employees healthy, happy and working.

Although we’ve all been taught how to wash our hands, a reminder never hurts:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water. Turn off the water and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Be sure to lather the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Sing the “ABC’s” song two times.
  • Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

 If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to wash your hands, using hand sanitizer is better than doing nothing. This isn’t a replacement for washing your hands with soap and water, but does kill some of the germs. Squirt some sanitizer onto your hands and rub your hands together until the sanitizer has dissolved. If your hands are visibly dirty or grimy, hand sanitizer won’t work. As soon as you have time, wash your hands with soap and water.

Reducing the risk for getting the flu or common cold this winter means diligently washing hands. When you remind your employees to properly wash their hands, also tell them to teach their families. If children are sick less often, parents don’t have to take as much time off from work to care for them. Enterovirus-D68 and influenza has been in the media spotlight for hospitalizing children. Washing hands reduces the risk of contracting these potentially deadly diseases.

Don’t wait. Start educating and emphasizing to your employees the benefits of washing their hands. Start by posting flyers in the break room or common areas. Remind your employees during meetings to routinely wash their hands, wipe down telephones, doorknobs and keyboards. Require employees to wash their hands before eating at communal work events.

For additional information about hand washing as well as flyers you can print, visit the Web site at www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/hand/handwashing-corporate.html