The COVID-19 pandemic has placed new emphasis on the importance of workplace hygiene. Health authorities have urged businesses to maintain high cleanliness standards, even now as vaccines roll out. It’s easy to see why these protocols matter, but enforcing them is often easier said than done.
Despite the prevalence of COVID-19, 23% of Americans say they still don’t use hand sanitizer. This trend is especially concerning for retail employees who work close to customers and handle many high-touch surfaces. If you own or manage a retail business, you must enforce hand sanitizing among employees but may not know how.
Here are five ways you can ensure employees sanitize their hands while at work.
1. Optimize Sanitizer Placement
Perhaps the most crucial step in enforcing hand hygiene is sanitizer placement. If it’s not easily accessible, employees are less likely to use it since the reward doesn’t seem worth the effort. By contrast, if sanitizing stations are in sight and easy to get to, your workers are more likely to use them.
Place stations close to where employees spend the most time. Cash registers, break rooms and entrances are all ideal locations. Remember to have multiple sanitizing stations to accommodate all employees wherever they work.
You should also post signage near hand sanitizer stations to draw attention to them. When employees don’t have to look around, it’s less of a chore to use it.
2. Use Preferable Sanitizers
Not every type of hand sanitizer is equal. You should use products with at least 60% alcohol to ensure safety, but you should also look for options your employees like. If your workers don’t prefer the specific kind of sanitizer you provide, they’ll likely avoid it.
One study found that 84% of hand sanitizer users prefer foam sanitizers over gels. Many people find gels too sticky or irritating to handle, so they may avoid using them. Similarly, if your option dries out your employees’ hands, they’re not likely to use it often, if at all.
Avoid scented and dyed sanitizers as well, as these could irritate sensitive skin. Providing a foaming, moisturizing, perfume- and dye-free sanitizer will appeal more to your employees.
3. Employ Electronic Monitoring Systems
You could monitor employees as they sanitize their hands to ensure compliance, but this is inefficient. Direct manual observation also only accounts for 3.5% of hand hygiene events, making it ineffective as well. Electronic monitoring systems are a better alternative.
You can find electronic sensors that attach to hand sanitizer stations and collect data on their usage. This will reveal if employees are regularly sanitizing their hands or not. It will also indicate which sanitizing stations see the most use, helping you optimize placement.
4. Streamline Other Workplace Tasks
Workplace efficiency may seem unrelated to hand hygiene, but it can impact how often employees sanitize their hands. If your workers are too busy with other tasks, taking the time to sanitize may seem like an inconvenience. Streamlining other processes gives them time to take care of their hygiene.
Tasks like checking out customers at the register, counting drawers or restocking can take time, but employees need to do them. Since these value-adding tasks take precedence over sanitizing for your employees, they could distract them from hygiene. If you can streamline these duties to take less time, your workers can comfortably sanitize their hands without sacrificing productivity.
5. Lead by Example With Hand Sanitizing
No matter what other steps you take, you must lead by example. If you are not also sanitizing your hands regularly, your employees will likely notice. When they see you don’t do it, they’ll have little motivation to do it themselves.
Studies have found that leading by example increases cooperation in the workplace, and the inverse is also true. If you don’t follow the rules you set, your employees won’t, either.
Keep Your Employees and Customers Safe
Even after COVID-19 fades, it’ll still be important to maintain a high level of hygiene. When you and your employees sanitize your hands often, you can prevent many diseases from spreading. Both your workers and your customers will be healthier for it.
Enforcing regulations like this can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Follow these five steps, and your workplace will become a cleaner, healthier place.
Credit: Devin Partida is a retail writer and blogger. You can read more posts from Devin at ReHack.com, where she is the Editor-in-Chief.