One of the most important responsibilities of any employer is their responsibility to the health and safety of their workers. Now, typically, the threats that business owners associate this with is the ever-serious danger of accident and injury, such as slips, trips, falls, and collisions with work equipment. However, is there another kind of risk, one more pervasive, that can take more time to notice if you’re not careful. Here, we’re going to look at the ways that your office might be making your team sick and what you can do about it.
It’s not getting cleaned enough
Bacteria is one of the leading causes of illness. All kinds of bacteria can thrive in the office environment, causing all manner of illnesses to spread. Taking a look at some of the bacteria commonly found in offices, it’s easy to notice that they range from those that can lead to temporary illness right up to serious threats to the health of the individual. The single best way to deal with this bacteria is to ensure that you’re cleaning the office on a regular basis. If your team isn’t able to keep up with the duty of cleaning their workstation and surroundings, then you should have a professional cleaning team coming in at least once a week to maintain the standards you would expect of any office.
There’s not enough focus on hygiene
The bacteria and microbes found in the office don’t come from nowhere. It can be due to a pile-up of waste, food leftovers, dust mites, and more. However, there is evidence to suggest that poor hygiene is the leading cause of the spread of most illnesses in the workplace. The single best way to enforce a policy of better hygiene is to make better hygiene more accessible. This can mean things like ensuring there are hand washing stations available throughout the place, with hand sanitizer, and rules about using garbage disposal systems and keeping the communal areas clean. Taking a firm line on anyone caught breaking the rules of hygiene is for the good of the whole office, even if it might initially seem draconian.
You let people come in sick
If someone is showing symptoms of illness in the office, it’s best to send them home. As soon as they’re coughing and sneezing, they’re spreading their disease-bearing microbes throughout the area and on every surface that they touch. Often, it only takes one person to act as a vector for an illness for it to pass throughout the entire workplace. Even if the person indicates that they’re happy and willing to be at work, they shouldn’t be in the office. You can encourage those who are able to work remotely, for instance, but you should not risk letting them into the office. If their condition deteriorates, it could be dangerous for them, as well, after all.
Air quality makes a big difference
Things like a lack of hygiene, poor cleanliness, and symptomatic illness are relatively easy to understand, but many of the things that affect the health of the office are straight-up invisible. Such is the case with air quality. This is a measure of how clean the air is. Poor air quality means that the air is full of allergens and contaminants. These are usually things like dust and dust mites, and dander, but can also mean things like mold and chemicals. Air quality testing for the office can highlight not only the condition of the office’s air but also steps that you can take to improve this. This can include things like improving ventilation, as well as using humidifiers or dehumidifiers to better control moisture levels in the environment.
The importance of ergonomics
Although different in nature from the kinds of illness that have been mentioned so far, the stresses that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, such as back pain and joint pain, are well worth keeping an eye on. Back pain is the most common disability as well as one of the most common causes of sick days. Ensuring that you choose your office furniture well, paying attention to ergonomics and how you can support the bodies of your team, is going to help stave off the stresses of work in a sedentary environment.
You use indoor chemical pollutants
Many workplaces deal with chemicals as a matter of the business that they do, using them in production, maintenance, and so on. However, even in the typical office building, there is a risk of exposure to indoor chemical pollutants which can lead to issues with respiratory illness, exacerbating or even causing conditions like asthma. There is even a risk that some, such as volatile organic compounds, can cause cancer. The single best way to avoid indoor chemical pollutants is to avoid using cleaning products that are any stronger than they need to be and to be careful of using things like air fresheners and deodorants in the office. You should also make sure that any furniture you bring into the office is certified to be free of VOCs.
Stress is a very real risk
One of the truly invisible killers of the modern age, stress can be hard to notice in the work environment because, well, everyone is likely dealing with stress to some degree during part of the day. A little stress, when the stakes are high, temporarily, is not a bad thing, and is a healthy reaction that can motivate and energize someone to get through tough times. However, when stress becomes chronic, it becomes truly dangerous, leading not only to potential emotional instability, but causing issues such as back and joint pain, and even raising blood pressure to occasionally dangerous levels. Stress must be managed in the workplace, and a lot of this comes down to your ability to recognize and manage the workloads and demands on your workers, something that a lot of employers and managers are willing to ignore for the sake of productivity.
Hopefully, with the tips above, you have a better idea of what you can do to keep your office and your team healthy. Diligence is the price of keeping a productive and motivated workplace.