A culture of cleanliness can combat further loss of productivity in South Africa


With South Africa in lockdown in an effort to curve the spread the coronavirus management should be forward planning for when staff go back to the office. Part of this planning will need to include correct cleaning of the workspace.

With the country’s economics now on a spiral, South African businesses can hardly afford further losses due to lost productivity. These losses are going to be significant.

“Making sure the workplace is safe for return is one element but with what we have learnt globally and locally over the last few months cleaning methods and regimes are going to be priority,” says Emma Corder, MD of Industroclean South Africa’s leading industrial cleaning company that services many blue chip clients. “These will also help to curb 20% of absenteeism that’s attributed to actual illness and implementing cleaning initiatives can reduce the chance of infection in the workplace.”

Pre and post lockdown employees often spend the bulk of their time within the workplace, this is an obvious priority area for organisations that hope to limit the risk of infections. While hazardous and heavy industrial environments clearly have different priorities to the corporate lobby or kitchen areas, both require vigilance and discipline to keep clean and safe.

“It pays to be obsessive over workplace hygiene because these tend to be spaces with a high volume of activity for extended periods,” Corder says. “These places are especially vulnerable to the spread of the flu virus and other common ailments, so they require a special level of care to reduce the chance of an infectious virus spreading.”

The starting point for any office hygiene programme is to implement regular, scheduled cleaning of all surfaces and equipment to reduce the accumulation of dust and germs. Daily cleaning should encompass everything from telephones, computers and toilets to the communal fridge and tap handles down to the waste collection and handling areas.

A crucial aspect in the fight against viruses is air quality, which can be achieved through a properly maintained air filtration system. Building-wide air-conditioning systems can circulate dust and other micro-organisms to quickly contaminate the entire building.

Over and above the daily cleaning, workplaces need to be deep cleaned regularly, although there is still uncertainty over how long the virus can survive outside of a host, for organisations, the cleaning of work chairs, carpets and blinds should be focus areas.

“Regular maintenance and cleaning of these areas are crucial if organisations hope to keep the work environment free of infections. But the answer lies not only in these large-scale actions that need to be performed regularly. Embedding a hygiene and cleanliness culture within organisations is just as important if the workplace is to remain germ-free.”

Corder offers the following tips on what employees should be doing to contribute to a hygienic office space.

  • Always wash your hands or use hand sanitiser to save water. Invest in sanitising wipes to keep on hand and conveniently wipe any surface.
  • Clean your phone (cellphone and work phone) to avoid coming into contact with bacteria.
  • Regularly clean the fridge at the office and be diligent about employees removing any food before it spoils.
  • Ensure your desk is regularly cleaned and avoid eating and leaving food packaging.

Now is the time to plan ahead and as South Africans we need to maintain the “cleaning” mentality that we have adopted during this time.