(photo: Brittany Colette)
11.03.2020, 15:56

Don’t turn your Nose up at Employee Health

Health, Safety, Security & Environment, Workspace Management, United Kingdom

With seasonal flu coinciding with the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the United Kingdom, Jamie Woodhall, UK Technical & Innovation Manager for Initial Washroom Hygiene, explains the measures employees and employers can take to improve workplace hygiene.


It’s that time of year again; boxes of tissues are dotted around the office and the sound of coughing and sneezing fills the air. The annual onslaught of colds, flus and low moods is upon us. While the average working Brit is typically entitled to paid sick leave that can be self-assessed, provided it is under seven consecutive days in a row, recent studies have shown that the number of Brits calling in sick is declining at a worrying rate.


Analysts have linked this to the anxiety that workers may feel towards “pulling a sickie”. At first glance, these lower results may seem like an employer’s perfect scenario as staff are more available in the office. But given that general UK health hasn’t improved, these results mean that many could be choosing to go into the office when they should take sick leave or work from home. If they don’t do this it can affect their wellbeing and ability to recover, while also encouraging the spread of infection and illness around the office.


Whilst an individual’s decision to take sick leave remains their personal choice and employers can’t necessarily enforce it, they can make sure that the office is a more pleasant and healthy space for them to be in.


Signs of poor hygiene are often indicated by smell, and scent can in fact influence employee mental wellbeing. A pleasant odour is an important element of any workplace, with fragrant environments boosting client satisfaction and even helping to improve staff moods and productivity


Smells unhygienic

No two people experience an odour in the same way – making this sense a very personal one. Smells can trigger a very emotive response amongst employees and clients. Whilst almost everyone has experienced malodour in the washroom, three quarters questioned in our study felt disgusted when noticing an unpleasant smell, with almost a quarter saying it left them ‘fearful of getting sick’. 


Malodour is often strongly associated with an unhygienic environment, with those questioned associating it with uncleanliness (79 per cent), poor hygiene (75 per cent) and bacteria (60 per cent). Perhaps unsurprisingly, when it came to experiencing malodour in a retail establishment or restaurant, reactions included opting to leave or not return to an establishment (51 per cent), complaining to the owner or manager (25 per cent) or posting a bad review online (6 per cent). Once again, facilities managers need to understand that it makes business sense to consider the harmful effects malodour could have on customers and clients. It’s worth noting that more than half of Brits believe that air fresheners demonstrate care and concern towards the state of the washrooms in general.  


Unpleasant odours = unpleasant experience

We can all recall a moment where a strong smell has stopped us in our tracks and made us cover our nose. It may not be obvious, but scent is an extremely influential and powerful sense. Even if we can’t determine a smell, it can trigger strong memories. Research has shown a huge 75 per cent of emotions are generated this way, yet for many businesses, scenting is often overlooked. ‘Smell memory’ is the most powerful part of our memory, with humans able to recognise 10,000 different odours. Pleasant scents will trigger good memories, even if those memories are subconscious. The opposite is true for bad odours! 


In an office environment, a bad smell can quickly become overpowering and even something as simple as an employee’s lunch can have a profound effect on their colleagues, and their motivation levels at work.


Our research found that three in five employees eat lunch at their desk three or more times a week. This is likely to fill many work environments with the smell of food, and a third of office workers find it hard to work as a result. Of course, many may not realise the unfavourable effect their lunch choices could have on the co-workers who sit near them, so it’s important to have a designated place for people to sit whilst they eat. This should allow for employees to work if necessary and encourage a healthier workday.


Clean up your act  

Some businesses are still unaware of developments in air care solutions. Good air care solutions can remove malodours.  Some can clean the air by neutralising odour molecules as well as the bacteria, and fungi, which cause bad smells. They also filter, clean and intelligently perfume the air – targeting and neutralising airborne microorganisms and odour molecules – so that fragrance particles are not simply concentrated in one area, but leave behind a pleasant, gentle fragrance throughout the washroom. 


You may want to consider installing air fresheners that automatically dispense fragrance to help neutralise odours and create a pleasant-smelling environment. An air purifier can also help to eradicate any pathogenic airborne bacteria and viruses including the flu virus, Streptococcus and Rhinovirus. 


Final words  

If you’re unsure of the best option for your office, don’t hesitate to consult the experts. Air care professionals have a deep understanding of how office hygiene can affect the wellbeing of employees and will advise on and deploy the right solutions to help your business reap the benefits of a happier, more productive workforce. This could be through providing a fragrance or air cleaning system to aid malodour control, or more general washroom solutions to help avoid bad odours in the first place. 


As Brits spend an average of 34.5 hours per week in the workspace, a nice smelling environment makes for a healthier team. For that reason, it’s always important to consider office and washroom aromas.


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