10% of your colleagues eat food in the bathroom at work

Photo: iStock.

We all have at least a few work colleagues who stand out for the wrong reasons. Whether they’re annoying, bossy, or drink too much at the Christmas party.

Well, it appears that there’s another type of person you may not want as a co-worker — the unhygienic one.

In new research by ICM Unlimited, on behalf of Initial Hygiene, a hygiene services business, it was found that 10% of work colleagues eat food in the bathroom.

And apparently it’s not the only unusual activity happening in the loos at work.

According to the study, 40% of Australian office workers read or browse the internet in the office toilets, almost a quarter read and reply to emails and 17% read newspapers, books or documents pertaining to work whilst on the toilet.

One in 10 people even admitted to playing Pokemon Go while on the toilet.

This is despite 28% of workers thinking the bathrooms at their office were no cleaner than those found in public places such as bars and restaurants.

Think that there might be some unhygienic practices going on in your workplace?

Initial Hygiene suggests three ways to create a healthier environment.

1. Encourage staff to leave their phones on desks when using the bathroom

Hygiene expert Dr Lisa Ackerley, says: “Bringing your phone into the bathroom may seem like a good distraction from work, but when workers wipe and then simply pick up their phone before washing their hands, their phone becomes a reservoir for germs and bacteria that can actually recontaminate washed hands. A smartphone which is brought into a bathroom will invariably end up with invisible traces of faeces and urine on it. These traces will then transfer to the owner’s hands.”

2. Help your staff slow down

The time-poor, distracted and overworked office environments that are still all too common, are likely in part responsible for behaviour like 49% of staff not washing their hands after using the bathroom. Slowing down, taking care of oneself through adequate sleep, nutrition, breaks away from desks and the like, will help staff to start taking more care, rather than rushing through their day and skipping over this vital habit. Feeling overworked can also mean staff are less likely to take sick days when sick, spreading germs like wildfire. Enforcing lunch breaks and providing resources for guided meditations are a couple of measures that can help, but ultimately managers should lead by example and set the tone for a healthy office.

3. Use the “Hawthorne effect” to instigate change

The Hawthorne effect is a a well-established psychological phenomenon in which participants in behavioural studies change the way they act upon discovering they are being observed.

If office workers think people are watching them wash their hands after using the bathroom, handwashing compliance is likely to improve.

The sample size of this study was 5,000 office workers in Malaysia, UK, Australia, Germany and France. 1,000 of the respondents were from Australia.

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