At a time when economic growth remains constrained, South African businesses can hardly afford further losses due to lost productivity. The Momentum Effective Employee Index estimates that 120 million days are lost to absenteeism every year, which amounts to about 13 days per employee.
Emma Corder, the managing director of Industroclean, an industrial cleaning company that services blue chip clients, said: “These lost days represent billions of rand of possible revenue that the country can hardly afford to miss out on.
“One way to curb the 20% of absenteeism that’s attributed to actual illness is to implement cleanliness initiatives that can reduce the chance of infection in the workplace.”
With employees often spending most of their time in the workplace, this is an obvious priority area for organisations that hope to limit the risk of infections. While hazardous and heavy industrial environments clearly have different priorities to the corporate lobby or kitchen areas, both require vigilance and discipline to keep clean and safe.
“It pays to be obsessive over workplace hygiene because these tend to be spaces with a high volume of activity for extended periods,” Corder said.
“These places are especially vulnerable to the spread of the flu virus and other common ailments, so they require a special level of care to reduce the chance of some infectious virus spreading.”
The starting point for any office hygiene programme is to implement regular, scheduled cleaning of all surfaces and equipment to reduce the accumulation of dust and germs. Daily cleaning should encompass everything from telephones, computers and toilets to the communal refrigerator and tap handles down to the waste collection and handling areas.
A crucial aspect in the fight against viruses is air quality, which can be achieved through a properly maintained air filtration system. Building-wide air-conditioning systems can circulate dust and other micro-organisms that contaminate the entire building.
“Regular maintenance and cleaning of these systems are crucial if organisations hope to keep the work environment free of these dangers. But the answer lies not only in these large-scale actions that need to be performed regularly. Embedding a hygiene and cleanliness culture within organisations is just as important if the workplace is to remain germ-free,” she said.
Corders offers the following tips on what employees can do to contribute to a hygienic office space:
- Always wash your hands or use hand sanitiser to save water. Invest in sanitising wipes;
- Clean your phone (cellphone and work phone) to avoid coming into contact with bacteria;
- Clean the fridge at the office regularly and be diligent about employees removing food spills;
- Ensure your desk is regularly cleaned and avoid eating or leaving food packaging.
Martin Slabbert is the newsroom manager at HWB Communications