Are office workers doing their part for a clean workplace? Find out in this UK survey

by Brianna Crandall — February 20, 2019 — UK office cleaning company SMC Premier just released a survey of over 5,000 UK office workers about their hygiene habits at work. With germs able to remain on contaminated surfaces for hours or even months, the study holds obvious repercussions for cleaning professionals who are trying to keep offices as safe places in which to work.

Several people gathered around a laptop, touching it

The survey reveals hygiene habits of UK office workers such as frequency of handwashing in the restroom, eating at desks, leaving messes for cleaners, and views on hot-desking. Image courtesy SMC Premier

Restroom hygiene

The results revealed that only 61% of respondents wash their hands properly with warm water and soap after going to the toilet. 18% will do a quick hand wash, 14% occasionally wash their hands, and a full 7% admitted to not washing their hands.

Survey data also uncovered that women are more hygienic than men after using the toilet, with 66% happily washing their hands after a visit to the bathroom, compared to 53% of men.

When comparing age groups, 11% of the younger generation (18- to 24-year-olds) confessed to not washing their hands after the toilet, making this statistic above the overall average of 7%.

Sharing a desk

The survey exposed people’s opinions around hot-desking, with 6% of those asked admitting they were under the impression that all shared desks were cleaned after use. 12% of respondents who regularly hot desk will only work on the desk if they know it’s been cleaned first. 38% share a strong opinion that communal desks are germ-infested, because you never know who’s been sitting there.

Eating at your desk

Eating at your desk isn’t uncommon, especially for 26% of office workers who remain at their desk to eat at least one to three times per week. One quarter of respondents admitted to eating and working three to five days per week, and 4% said they have no choice but to eat at their desk every day. The report brings up the question of whether 4% is a high statistic, and whether employees are expected to work through lunches to meet work deadlines.

On average, around half of 18- to 64-year-olds will move away from their desk to eat, leaving the other half to remain seated occasionally.

Despite the popularity of eating at your desk, only 11% of workers will clean theirs properly, according to the report. 38% will do a “quick clean” — put snack wrappers in the trash or empty the crumbs from their keyboard, while 45% say they are spotless eaters and never need to clean up after eating. However, 7% of employees appear to be too lazy to clean, and instead leave it to someone to else.

The over-65’s are cautious about making a mess after eating at their desk, with 72% claiming that they don’t need to clean up, compared to just 1/3 of Millennials.

Cleaning up the office

Whether a result of their own lunch or coworkers’ carelessness, when it comes to who is responsible for the cleanliness of the office, 6% revealed that if they saw a spill or trash on the floor, they would leave it to the cleaner, as it’s not their problem.

Fortunately for the office atmosphere, another 56% of respondents admitted they would help clean up since it would eventually annoy them, and 38% confessed that they would reluctantly clean if they had to. This rises to 51% for 18- to 24-year-olds.

Breakroom cleanliness

Have you thought about the cleanliness of your cup when drinking a brew out of it? When employees were asked to share their brew-making hygiene skills; 25% confessed to never cleaning the mugs before making a round. However, 39% will wash the mugs properly, and 36% will do a quick rinse to avoid using a communal sponge.

Dogs in the workplace

Despite their boost to morale, a full 77% of respondents shared the same thought that four-legged friends are highly unhygienic to have in the office. This statistic was significantly higher among the over 65’s, at 85%.

And 2% of employees with a dog in the office have even considered leaving their job to be in a dog-free environment.

The report raises the issue of whether it is culturally acceptable nowadays to leave the office cleaning to the cleaner to do, and whether workers have become too lazy to do simple tasks such as washing their hands after the toilet or spending a few seconds to put an empty chip bag in the trash can. And are employees too busy and expected to remain at their desk to work, thus sacrificing lunch hours?

The full survey results are available on SMC Premier’s Office Habits — The Dirty Truth page, as well as a reference to office workplace studies.