Personal Hygiene and The Workplace: A Bit of Fun

The ThroneWhat do you do when personal hygiene issues disrupt the workplace?

Sometimes there is one person whose (lack of) personal hygiene makes it impossible for others to share the office space. Take that person aside and explain the problem. Don’t criticise or humiliate. Aim to maintain the person’s dignity at all times.

But if it is a general problem and you cannot or do not want to approach an individual, try a bit of humour. The men would have come across the occasional sign in the men’s room:

‘We aim to please; will you aim, too, please’

Such an approach helps deal with an issue without humiliation and without targeting an individual.

Of course, with a generalised approach to issues, the main culprits often pay no attention and the humble worry in case someone is getting at them. Even so, it’s better to start with a gentle approach.

I was asked to deal with a situation where the ladies were using the only men’s room in the building because they didn’t want to wait for the Ladies to become free or to walk down a flight of stairs to the other ‘gender appropriate’ loo. I sent out this email, which I entitled ‘A Wee Problem’:

Dear friends,

Just a friendly request to the ladies, if you don’t mind, about the gents.

There is only one men’s loo in the building, and that is on the top floor. Now, I’m sure you understand how that can be a bit inconvenient some times. So, even more disconcerting is walking (or running sometimes) all the way up from the ground floor only to find the said convenience occupied by a lady.

Please be so kind and leave our little loo to us, and please use the ladies loos which are (for your convenience) on every floor. If yours is occupied, a little jog down one flight of stairs will ensure you don’t get any stares from us.

Thank you.
Kind regards,

More recently, a couple of folk in an office complained that some of their fellow employees weren’t washing their hands when they were finished in the loo. Getting all heavy and judgemental about it is just silly, so I wrote a poem which was sent to everyone. The Witness had coincidently published an article on the matter that same day.

The Washing of The Hands

Some folks in the office are all in a tizz;
It’s the washing of hands that is causing the fizz.
So, stop for a moment – be on the alert
‘Cos ‘The Witness’ says everything’s all full of dirt.

Our filth is all over; it’s worse than we feared.
It’s found on our telephones and even my beard!
It’s on coffee mugs and on handles and more;
The bad stuff is everywhere – DON’T TOUCH THAT DOOR!

Where have your hands gone since they were last cleaned?
Did you go to the loo, blow your nose, touch a friend.
Will you eat something now? How ‘bout a wash?
Let’s keep this place clean – all those germs we will quash.

Tell us below how you have dealt with these difficult issues.

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Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people and HR & people-management consulting.

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