Have you touched an office phone, light switch, keyboard, doorknob or copier today?
Depending on how clean they were, you could become sick in a few days or spread germs and bacteria to your coworkers or bring them home to your family.
After 35 years of cleaning up after others, Stephen Collins, founder of Stephco Cleaning & Restoration, has learned a very important lesson: There really is a direct correlation between a clean work environment and improved employee health.
Because of this, defense against the “germ warfare” is extremely important in keeping work environments clean and in helping reduce sick days.
“Winter cleaning may be more important than spring cleaning,” notes Collins. “Commercial buildings are buttoned-up tightly against the winter weather, which is good for energy conservation. But, reduced fresh airflow — along with the arrival of the cold and flu season — means workplaces are an ideal place for the growth and spread of germs.”
Besides a person’s health, the cleanliness of a work environment has a direct effect on employee morale, productivity and attendance.
According to Collins, the trillions of bacteria on any given surface are a primary cause of illness and, depending on the surface, a bacteria’s lifespan can vary from just a few hours to several days or even months.
Healthcare experts say that germs, bacteria and viruses responsible for ailments like the common cold and the flu are more likely to stay active on hard surfaces than on soft surfaces or textiles.
The influenza virus lives longer than the rhinovirus, and temperature and humidity influence their lifecycles.
In the case of a sponge or improperly laundered clothing, bacteria can live for several days or longer, potentially sickening building occupants.
“If odors are present in a work environment or are permeating from a particular surface, it usually indicates the presence of bacteria,” explains Collins. “The odor is a result of the gasses that bacteria give off as they consume the soils and biofilms from unclean surfaces, which act as a food source for pathogens.”
Regularly cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces reduces bacteria counts, while thorough and frequent handwashing is regarded by many as the best way to avoid catching someone else’s germs.
Causes Of Unhealthy Environments
Collins has experienced a lot in his decades of cleaning healthcare facilities, government institutions, private businesses and more in and around the greater Boston area.
In hopes of helping others learn from what he has witnessed, Collins offers a handful of scenarios that can contribute to an unhealthy work environment.
1. Employees are working longer hours, often in spaces teeming with pathogenic bacteria
2. Reduced office space forces employees to work in closer proximity to colleagues, creating shorter travel distances for germs
3. An increasing number of workers eat in their workspaces, which have been found to be dirtier than a public toilet seat
4. People who sneeze, cough or yawn without covering their mouth
5. Workers who leave the restroom without thoroughly washing or sanitizing their hands.
“Due to budget cuts, some property owners and facilities managers ask for advice on ways to cut cleaning costs,” proclaims Collins. “We feel it’s a team effort, and we work to educate them and emphasize the importance of maintaining the highest cleanliness standards.”
By combining the latest equipment and well-trained staffs, excellent results can be achieved — even on a reduced budget.
“Our customers know that clean workspaces do more than keep their workers safe, healthy and productive; they know it makes a good impression on clients,” offers Collins.
Property owners, facilities managers and other building occupants should realize their importance and begin viewing janitors, custodians and other JanSan professionals as more than just cleaners.
“We’re helping to keep their employees healthier and more productive, in addition to helping make their businesses more profitable,” concludes Collins. “We’re saving them time and money, we’re protecting their investments and we’re providing them with peace of mind.”