Sixty-eight percent of office workers have seen co-workers not wash their hands after using restroom, according to survey; of those who wash their hands, one in five say they simply give hands a quick rinse
October 14, 2011
– "Employees must wash their hands" is a sign we have all seen in restaurant bathrooms, but we may soon need these signs in the bathrooms of offices across America. According to a recent survey of American office workers by SCA, one of the world's largest hygiene products companies, 68 percent of office workers say they have seen their co-workers not wash their hands after using the restroom. And of those that say they do wash their hands about one in five say they simply give their hands a quick rinse, regardless of what was done in the bathroom.
"We know that in some offices being willing to 'get your hands dirty' is a sign of a strong work ethic," says Amy Bellcourt, vice president of SCA, "but we don't think this is what anyone had in mind." SCA, which manufactures the hand towels and soap found in many office and public restrooms, conducted the survey to commemorate Global Handwashing Day (www.globalhandwashingday.org), which falls on October 15th this year.
Office workers who admitted to not washing their hands cite a variety of reasons for committing the dirty deed, including: my hands aren't really dirty (69%); I don't have time (8%); there was no soap or towels (4%); and the disturbing, nobody was watching (3%).
Not surprisingly, the majority of poor bathroom hygiene habits seem to take place in the men's room. According to the survey 75% of male office workers say they have witnessed a colleague not wash their hands, while only 61% of female office workers report seeing such a thing in the ladies room.
Interestingly, younger employees seem more likely than boomers to have good bathroom hygiene habits or at least they are more likely to notice bad behavior. In fact, of office workers who say they wash their hands regularly when using the bathroom, 76% of those under the age of 45 report seeing colleagues who did not wash their hands. Only 60% of office workers over 45 say they have noticed such behavior in the bathroom.
On a regional level, the SCA survey found that office workers who live in the Midwest are more likely than those living in the South to have noticed a co-worker not washing their hands (74 percent vs. 64 percent).
"Office workers come in contact with a lot of surfaces during the day and even though hands may not appear dirty, the potential to spread germs is high," says SCA's Bellcourt. "Following good handwashing practices, like washing and completely drying your hands after using the restroom, can help office workers avoid catching anything from the common cold to dangerous viruses."
Even though office workers report seeing their co-workers not wash their hands, 38 percent say they have not confronted a co-worker simply because they didn't know how to bring it up. At the same time, about a third of office workers who have seen co-workers not wash their hands have confronted them because they say "it's disgusting," according to the survey.
Of course office bathrooms may not be creating the optimal environment for robust handwashing. Many office bathrooms still feature air hand dryers and according to the survey 32% report that they don't use them at all. Either those are a lot of wet hands or they represent the dirtiest of the dirty-handed office workers. Nearly three-quarters (68%) of respondents do use air dryers, but a full 42% of those surveyed said they would prefer to have paper towels available in the office restroom.
"Many people think that air dryers are more efficient and better for the environment," adds SCA's Bellcourt. "But that's really not the case. They end up using more energy and often do not fully dry the user's hands – and damp hands spread up to 500 times more germs than dry hands." SCA's Tork® paper products are produced using 100% recycled material. In fact, the company has been called one of the greenest companies on earth.
In honor of Global Handwashing Day on October 15th, learn more about how SCA is improving the hygiene and health of communities around the globe. 'Like' SCA on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SCA between October 15 and November 15, 2011, and SCA will donate 1 Euro ($1.40) to the Red Cross.
For more information on sustainable hygiene and personal care products, visit SCA's website at www.sca.com/us. For tips on how to improve your handwashing and free downloadable handwashing posters, visit the company's Tork paper products' site at http://www.torkusa.com/hygiene1/.
The survey was conducted for SCA by KRC Research and involved 500 full or part-time office workers, ages 18 and older. The survey was conducted via telephone from September 30, 2011 to October 2, 2011.
SCA is a global hygiene and paper company that develops and produces personal care products, tissue, packaging solutions, publication papers and solid-wood products. Sales are conducted in some 100 countries. SCA has many well-known brands, including the global brands TENA and Tork. Sales in 2010 amounted to $15 billion. SCA has approximately 45,000 employees. More information at www.sca.com/us or www.sca.com.