By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
SpaceIQ

It’s easy to think of bathrooms and kitchens as peripheral to the workplace—after all, you’re hardly “working” in them. Nevertheless, they’re part of an employee’s everyday experience with the workplace at large.

As the coronavirus pandemic shines a spotlight on cleanliness and hygiene, employees are more conscious of their interaction with these spaces. Employers need COVID-19 protocols for workplace bathrooms and kitchens to ease the conscience of employees worried about virus spread.

Most people have a heightened awareness of hygiene in these spaces—for obvious reasons. It’s up to employers to meet employee expectations for cleanliness and sanitation. If the soap in the bathroom runs out or the kitchen microwave has caked-on grime from years of use, employee confidence will drop. It doesn’t take long to bridge the mental gap from dirty microwave to fears of COVID-19 lurking on every flat surface.

Maintain clean, sanitary bathrooms and kitchens to show employees their workplace is well-kept and safe. Peace of mind in these spaces extends to confidence in the greater safety of the workplace as a whole.

Encourage good habits

Employees have the biggest impact on the cleanliness of kitchens and bathrooms. How they interact with these spaces determines how clean or dirty they become. If Charlotte’s microwave pot pie explodes and she fails to clean it up, the mess will likely linger. If Miguel doesn’t tell someone the men’s bathroom is out of soap, it won’t get refilled until the scheduled cleaning.

The bottom line? Let employees know they’re the masters of their own domain. Encourage good habits in bathrooms and kitchens:

  • Frequent hand washing and good personal hygiene
  • Proper disposal of waste and garbage
  • Maintain clean countertops and appliances
  • Report problems immediately through a ticketing system

Be thorough and specific in advocating good habits. Most workplaces already have rules posted in bathrooms and kitchens (re: “Employees must wash hands before returning to work”). Create addendums and additional rules and post them where appropriate. “Employees will wipe down kitchen table before leaving” or “Please notify maintenance when using the last of the paper products.”

Schedule routine cleanings

Regardless of how careful employees are, bathrooms and kitchens are still breeding grounds for germs. It’s up to employers to set the benchmark for cleanliness. Routine cleanings are the simplest way to keep these spaces clean and employee confidence high.

Consult your current janitorial service to see if they offer kitchen and bathroom specific cleaning packages at a discount. If not, consider scheduling more frequent office cleanings. It’s not a bad idea for facility managers to collect bids from local janitorial services to see what services make sense, or to practice integrated facilities management.

At a minimum, schedule a weekly deep-clean and more often as your workplace demands it. What matters is these spaces are routinely disinfected and sanitized.

Provide sanitization supplies

The mere presence of cleaning products in kitchens and bathrooms is enough to quell many employees’ fears. They feel better when they’re in control of their situation. The ability to pick up a spray bottle of sanitizer and wipe down their chair and table will make them more comfortable eating in the break room. Disinfecting wipes in the bathroom allow them to wipe down stall door handles, flushers, and even toilet seats.

Put cleaning supplies in kitchens and bathrooms and let employees know they’re for general use. An email memo is a great way to get the word out, as is physical signage near these items. Make sure there’s also protocol for restocking. Failure to restock cleaning supplies can be worse than not offering it in the first place.

Discourage congregation

For bathrooms, congregation isn’t much of an issue. People shouldn’t congregate in these spaces anyway, so there’s not much use in asking them not to. A gentle reminder about bathroom etiquette may be more appropriate.

Kitchens are another matter. Kitchens and break rooms are social places where people take a breath, stop to chat, and enjoy each other’s company. Let them know they can still do this, but with social distancing policies in mind. Remind employees not to huddle around the fridge or microwave, or gather around the same table while they eat. In larger workplaces, it might be smart to institute a capacity policy—no more than 10 people or something akin to the size of the room.

Kitchens also mean people without masks—you can’t eat with a mask covering your mouth. Encourage good respiratory etiquette and proper mask care. For example, don’t set masks on the table; let them hang around the neck instead.

Be mindful of workplace cleanliness

Employees aren’t wrong to worry about the cleanliness of bathrooms and kitchens, and it’s not outlandish for them to set higher expectations for workplace cleanliness during COVID-19. Don’t give them any reason to doubt the safety of the workplace. Strong COVID-19 protocols for workplace bathrooms and kitchens go a long way toward showing mindfulness. If you can keep the messiest, most hygiene-focused areas of the workplace clean and tidy, it’s unlikely they’ll fret over the general state of the facilities.

Keep reading: COVID-19 Workplace Resources