7 Benefits to a Clean Work Environment
The Importance of a Clean Office
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of everyday life; one of the most noticeable is the renewed focus on hygiene and cleanliness. With everyone focused on washing their hands and sanitizing surfaces, the need to keep workspaces and offices clean has become a significant priority.
The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association (ISSA) estimates the cost of unclean workspaces is well over $200 billion annually, in large part due to lost productivity caused by illness and accidents. Investing in professional cleaning and developing employee policies and procedures related to cleanliness can go a long way toward the success of your company and the overall wellness of your workers.
Consider these benefits of a clean work environment when creating your plans.
1. Fewer Sick Days
Many employee illnesses can be directly linked to the conditions in their workplace. In one study, researchers investigated how quickly a virus spreads in a workplace. They inoculated several workers with a benign virus, and within four hours of the start of the workday, found the virus on more than half of the surfaces in the office. Also, half of the previously uninfected employees tested positive as carriers. Other research has shown that the average desk carries more bacteria and viruses than a toilet seat and that bacteria can easily spread to shared surfaces including doorknobs, elevator buttons, coffee makers, and office equipment.
Although not all viruses and bacteria carry illness, enough do that keeping surfaces clean needs to be a priority for preventing the spread of illness throughout the office.
There’s a pretty obvious correlation between illness and sick days — in fact, the Integrated Benefits Institute reports that the average employee takes 2.9 sick days per year. In a business with 100 employees, that amounts to nearly 300 days of lost employee productivity. While keeping the office clean may not prevent all employee illness, reducing the presence of harmful germs will undoubtedly help.
2. Improved Air Quality
Air quality is often overlooked when evaluating the cleanliness of a workspace, but it’s a vital component in employee comfort and overall health. Poor indoor air quality is closely tied to a host of issues, including issues with concentration and focus, headaches, and fatigue. Dirty air can also cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, and is linked to increased symptoms of respiratory conditions like asthma.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) notes that poor indoor air quality has several potential causes, including poor ventilation and HVAC issues that limit fresh air intake. Cleanliness inside the building can also have an impact. Dust and allergens in carpeting or on surfaces or hidden mold can affect the air quality and cause health effects.
Investing in deep cleaning or mold remediation can lead to measurable improvements in air quality, increasing your employee’s well-being, reducing sick days, and increasing productivity. And while OSHA doesn’t have specific standards regarding air quality, it does have regulations relating to specific contaminants. Making cleaning a priority ensures compliance with these standards, reducing the risk of sanctions or liability.
3. Increased Productivity
A clean workplace doesn’t just keep employees at work; it actually helps them be more productive. Studies show the average person wastes 2.5 days per year looking for lost items. From pens to files, a messy workspace makes it difficult to find what you need when you need it. It also increases the chance of damage to important items: A spilled cup of day-old coffee can wreak havoc on electronics or important paperwork.
Spending a few minutes to straighten up and organize a work area reduces this lost time and protects important equipment and information. It also allows for surfaces to be cleaned and disinfected instead of allowing germs to spread, keeping everyone healthy.
4. Safer Workplace
Compared to dangerous jobs like logging or commercial fishing, working in an office is relatively safe. Still, thousands of people are injured at presumably “safe” jobs every year, often due to messy workplaces.
Many workplace injuries are slip or trip and fall accidents. Workers slip on wet floors or trip over hazards like cords or items left on the floor. Other common injuries include getting hit by objects falling off of shelves or tables, or injuries due to poorly maintained furniture.
Keeping workspaces clean and neat can prevent many of these accidents. Employees should be expected to wipe up or report spills and correct any hazards that may lead to injuries. Professional cleaning also helps ensure floors remain in good condition, reducing the risk of hazards that can cause a fall.
5. Makes a Good First Impression
Visitors may assume the condition of your business reflects the quality of your products or work. In fact, business cleanliness is a significant factor in customer preference, spending, and likelihood to return. ISSA reports that 94% of customers wouldn’t return to a restaurant if the bathrooms were dirty, and that cleanliness is the leading factor for customers when deciding where to shop. A clean environment also encourages customers to buy more: 60% of survey respondents noted that they buy more when a store is clean, well-lit, and pleasant.
6. Happier Staff and Visitors
Making a good first impression is only the first step. Keeping customers and staff happy also matters. Clutter and dirty spaces can have a detrimental effect on mental health; studies show that messy and overflowing spaces can create feelings of being out of control and anxiety, and can disrupt focus.
A dirty workplace may also cause tensions when employees are worried about germs or getting sick. Keeping the office clean can help these negative feelings and help employees feel more comfortable.
7. Relieves Stress
Coming to work and seeing a desk overflowing with papers, empty coffee cups, and other mess may contribute to feelings of stress or anxiety. And that cluttered and dirty environment can make it challenging to focus.
Researchers have found that a mess — whether a sink full of dirty dishes, a dirty floor, or just too much “stuff” piled around — interferes with our brain’s neural processing abilities. In short, your brain is so clogged by excess stimulation that short-term memory suffers, and it becomes more challenging to process information. This contributes to overwhelming feelings of stress, which can be prevented with a clean and tidy space.
Office Cleaning Tips
Keeping the office clean doesn’t have to take a great deal of time and effort. If everyone contributes to the effort, it’s possible to keep the space clean and healthy. These tips can make the process even easier.
- Invest in a professional cleaning service. A commercial cleaning service is a worthwhile investment. Even if cleaners only come in on a weekly or monthly basis, they can tackle big jobs or areas that employees can’t do daily. Professionals have the correct equipment and methods to thoroughly clean and disinfect surfaces and floors, and to ensure that often-overlooked areas like ceilings and walls are sparkling clean.
- Keep cleaning supplies handy. Make it easy for employees to manage small cleaning jobs by making supplies like disinfecting wipes, paper towels, and dish soap accessible. Even if you have a cleaning service, a broom and small vacuum allow workers to clean up minor spills right away before they become hazards.
- Discourage employees from eating at their desks. There are many reasons eating at your desk is a bad idea, and cleanliness is one of them. Encourage people to eat in the break area or outdoors instead, to prevent spills and leftover food that create messes. Leftover food or food in personal wastebaskets can cause odors, and attract pests, creating additional hazards.
- Assign daily cleanup tasks. Employees should be expected to keep their own work areas clean, but common areas are everyone’s responsibility. Develop a rotating schedule for everyone to contribute to cleaning shared spaces like conference rooms, waiting areas, and the break room. A list of tasks that can be checked off helps keep everyone accountable and the space clean.
- Allow time for cleaning. Some businesses schedule time for tidying and cleaning at the end of the day to ensure it gets done. Encourage your team to build 10-15 minutes into their schedule at the end of the workday to spend putting work away, wiping surfaces, and taking out the garbage.