However, failure to maintain a clean workspace could actually be harming employee wellbeing — and so in turn — business goals. Not only is a clean and tidy workspace pleasant to look at, but it also has numerous benefits for your company, which can help to produce a powerful and successful working environment. While this may all sound like rhetoric, there is strong evidence behind the concept of a cleaner, healthier office.
What bad cleanliness habits mean for your workplace
Poor cleanliness at work can result in a number of detrimental issues that inevitably lead to a decline in employee performance and business results. Fortunately, these issues are easy to identify, so once you know what to look for, you can begin to make changes in the workplace to resolve them. So what are the problems?
A weak first impression
If you’re familiar with the phrase “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”, then you’ll know that a candidate’s first impression of the business can make or break their decision to work there.
It’s the same for external parties too, as the overall brand impression conveyed to investors, customers, and partners has a significant impact on the way they interact with you. One factor is the cleanliness of a workspace, as this has a direct influence on the perception of your company’s professionalism.
These external parties want to know that they’re dealing with the right brand and the best people — and an unclean environment doesn’t give the appropriate signals. In HR, we oversee department functions and manage employees, so it makes sense that we also monitor cleanliness to ensure the business never needs that second chance.
Studies have shown that workplace mindset plays a significant role in your employee’s performance; how we perceive our work environment affects how we operate within it. A messy desk doesn’t project the idea of focus and professionalism. Instead, it suggests a casual — even chaotic — atmosphere which can negatively impact the way tasks are completed.
The effect of clutter
Clutter is problematic in the workplace for two reasons. Firstly, it inhibits good working practice by leading to time-wasting as employees search for relevant documents through the accumulated mess. Secondly, it also has a detrimental psychological effect, as physical clutter can result in mental confusion, leaving your employees unable to concentration and with a muddled thought processes that, in turn, leads to inefficient working practice.
Health and wellness
Unsurprisingly, poor cleanliness can have implications on workplace health. A build-up of dust, mildew, mold spores or bacteria can create environments that produce medical issues like respiratory problems and other illnesses. Keeping your workplace clean supports better employee health, reducing absenteeism and dips in performance caused by poor hygiene.
An unhappy worker is less effective at their job and also less likely to stick around. Many things impact worker happiness — some outside of your control — but cleanliness is something you can definitely control. The majority of people are unhappy as a result of dirty spaces — both at home and at work — so if you make arrangements to keep the workplace clean, you can influence the happiness of employees. You might think it a small thing, but a mountain of foul-smelling rubbish piling up could be the final straw for some employees.
What actions can you take to improve cleanliness?
Identifying the core issues you may face when it comes to workplace cleanliness is one thing, but resolution is another. Now you understand the potential severity of the problem, what can you do to make sure it doesn’t affect your workplace? As with many things in life, success revolves around the tactic of divide and conquer. Split your processes into short-term goals and long-term targets. One action isn’t going to cut it — you need to think bigger:
- Step 1: Inspect — Perform a comprehensive inspection of your workplace. Find weaknesses that you need to address, from messy and cluttered desks to a build-up of dust and deposits of mold.
- Step 2: Clean — Once you’ve located issues with cleanliness, it’s time to clean. Perform acts of general tidying and decluttering. It might be a laborious task, but it’s a simple one. Get your workplace into a position befitting the word “clean”.
- Step 3: Get a professional in — It may be that you don’t have the time to clean your workplace, you don’t have the necessary equipment, or you’ve already cleaned to the best of your ability, but you still can’t shift some of the issues. A professional cleaning service has the expertise and resources to carry out tasks such as deep carpet cleaning, which can eradicate bacteria, mold and stains that you aren't able to deal with.
- Schedules — Cleanliness isn’t about a one-off clean up — it’s about constant vigilance and dedication to a tidy and healthy working environment. Maintaining cleaning schedules or regular visits from professional cleaners is important for ensuring your office space remains in an orderly and hygienic condition.
- Awareness — Alongside keeping schedules, maintaining good cleanliness at work requires an awareness that new problems may crop up in different locations. Your initial inspections may have found that desks were dirty, rubbish was being left out and dust was accumulating on equipment — so you formulated steps to resolve these problems. That’s great — but while you’ve eradicated these problems, others may arise elsewhere, like mildew build-up in attic space — which can result in bacterial spores — or dirt tracked into the carpet — which attracts infestations.
- Training — The task of maintaining cleanliness isn’t just a job for HR — every member of the team needs to pitch in. Provide training or resources on the practices you expect workers to uphold. You can even present reward and consequence structures for those who follow guidelines and those who ignore them — having employees involved in maintaining cleanliness can dramatically impact results.
Through understanding the importance of a clean workspace, and acting upon any issues you may face, you can create a more successful work environment — which promotes better results for both your employees and your brand. While tackling workplace cleanliness does appear to be a time-consuming, sideline task, we hope you now appreciate why it’s an essential domino in the business success chain.