Employee Wellness in the Open Office: How Layout Trends Affect the Spread of Germs

by Thom Wojtkun, Market Development Director, Office Buildings, GOJO Industries
Mar 27, 2017 9:20 AM ET
Blog

Long gone are the Mad Men days when you could retire to a spacious, private office between meetings. The open office trend is here to stay, and for good reason: the layout can foster collaboration, a livelier interchange of ideas and a greater sense of belonging to the team. Surrounded by coworkers, even Don Draper might have spent less time moodily staring out the window.

But while an open environment can boost morale and creativity, there are new challenges that come with open floor plans. Closer physical contact between office workers means more exposure to germs. If an open floor plan encourages the spread of ideas, the same can go for the spread of illnesses.

Current Layout Trends and the Spread of Germs

Beyond the breakdown of office walls, two other trends are increasing employee exposure to germs in the work.

  • Shrinking floor space. Office floor plans used to allow for an average of 250 square feet per employee, but that number has dropped to 160-170 square feet. At this rate, employees will soon be allocated an average of 100 square feet each, further shrinking the space between employees—and making it easier to exchange germs.
     
  • Shared workspaces. The shuffle and camaraderie of shared workspaces can keep an office feeling dynamic and fresh. But sharing space also means that employees have less control over the cleanliness of their work surfaces. Sneezing, coughing and eating in shared workspaces can contaminate the area with germs for the next user.

As employees move closer together, they become more vulnerable to one another’s illnesses and bad hygiene habits. Nearly 70% of US workers have come to work sick, and if that isn’t enough to make you want to keep your distance, 60% of Americans have seen a coworker sneezing without a tissue1 and 34% of people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom2.

Numbers like these can make you want to step back into a solitary office—but at least you can still reach for the hand sanitizer.

Staying Healthy in the New Office Environment

Despite the health challenges posed by these layout trends, going back to the days of closed single-person offices is hardly an option. But organizations can help employees adapt to the new ways of doing business.

An inexpensive and simple—yet effective—solution is to make hand hygiene readily available at work. By bundling foam soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and hand sanitizing wipes, the PURELL ADVANCED WORKFORCE SOLUTION™ empowers employees to combat germs as they move throughout the office.

Handwashing in the restroom is important—but it’s only one component of a comprehensive solution. PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer placed around workstations gives workers an easy way to protect their health all day long—after eating, interacting with others, or overhearing a nearby sniffle.

Likewise, PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes give employees peace of mind by enabling them to clean and sanitize their hands after using shared workstations.

Hand Hygiene: An Effective First Line of Defense Against Germs

Whether or not you’re nostalgic for the good old days of private offices, new floor plans are bringing coworkers closer together. The trick is to ensure that open layouts and shared workspaces invite more collaboration, not more sick days.

The PURELL ADVANCED WORKFORCE SOLUTION™ is proven to work.  A recent study found this hand hygiene program helped reduce employee absenteeism by 13% and decrease healthcare claims for hand hygiene preventable illnesses by 24%. These concrete results show that sharing space with colleagues doesn’t have to be so scary when trusted hygiene products are available.

Find out how the PURELL ADVANCED WORKFORCE SOLUTION™ can make it easy to stay healthy in the new office environment—so that everyone can be excited to get out there and join the team.

1 Wakefield Research conducted a nationally representative survey between Jan. 22 and Feb. 2, 2015, among 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. The margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is +/- 3.1 percentage points.
2 Bradley Corporation, Healthy Handwashing Survey, 2015. https://www.bradleycorp.com/handwashing/2015handwashingsurvey