Contributed by SCA.

Each April, World Health Day celebrates the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) and renews the call to raise public health standards around the world. Within North America, preventing the spread of germs that cause influenza and the common cold, is a critical challenge every year. As people move about daily, especially in urban areas, germs transfer more easily, expanding their impact across communities. There are important steps facility managers and cleaning staff can take to provide the resources and clean environments that help keep people healthy throughout the year.

No matter what service a facility provides – delicious food, a warm night’s stay, best-in-class business facilities – hygiene can affect the bottom line. For example, illnesses that spread around workplaces can cause employees to take sick days, which reduce productivity or, if they come in, create a less hygienic space for coworkers and other patrons. In fact, poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion a year, with 39 percent, or $227 billion, from “lost productivity” from employee absenteeism due to illness or what researchers called “presenteeism,” when employees report to work but illness keeps them from performing at their best, according to The Integrated Benefits Institute 1 . With proper hygiene habits and supplies, however, these sicknesses can be contained or even avoided.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that 20 percent of respiratory infections (e.g., the common cold) can be prevented through handwashing 2 . Precluding these everyday illnesses through handwashing can also have a much broader positive effect on overall wellbeing, as reducing infections helps avoid overuse of antibiotics, which is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance around the world. As health and wellbeing are intricately tied to personal hygiene, businesses should provide proactive solutions for an environment that is less conducive to germ spread.

Some examples include:

 • Education – Facility managers and cleaning staff can outfit facilities with signs that remind employees and guests of the importance of hand hygiene. By prompting restroom visitors with the necessity of handwashing, we help spread the knowledge of healthy habits that impact wellbeing.

 • Innovation – Leverage technology innovations such intelligent restroom systems, which use sensor-equipped dispensers to remotely track supply levels, ensuring that restroom guests always have access to soap and hand towels. This technology also frees cleaning staff from focusing on restrooms that may not need attention, allowing them to prioritize cleaning needs.

 • Quality Products – Offer hand towels, soap and sanitizer that both effectively improve hand hygiene and are easy for cleaning staff to refill and maintain.

As organizations discuss and tackle global health issues this World Health Day, let’s also focus on the everyday habits that improve the foundation of wellbeing. Businesses everywhere can implement the products and technology to facilitate proper hygiene habits, which in turn help limit the spread of disease, reduce costs and keep everyone healthy.

Author: Carrie Schuster, Marketing Manager, Sustainability and Hygiene at SCA