Prioritising wellbeing, hygiene, safety and visible cleaning

7th of April 2021
Prioritising wellbeing, hygiene, safety and visible cleaning

Kimberly-Clark Professional recently commissioned a study in the UK, France and Germany to discover how people really felt about returning to work after the first coronavirus peak. It found that wellbeing, hygiene and safety are now very much at the top of everyone’s agenda.

Across Europe, the COVID-19 pandemic has moved wellbeing, hygiene and safety to the top of everyone’s agenda. With heightened awareness around risk, reinforced daily by the need for social distancing and the wearing of face coverings, managing consumer perceptions of cleanliness and hygiene is key to restoring and maintaining confidence for employees and customers across all sectors.

“As the leaders in workplace hygiene, we commissioned Harris Interactive to discover how people in the UK, France and Germany really felt about returning to work after the first coronavirus peak,” says Olena Neznal, vice president, Kimberly-Clark Professional EMEA. “The survey found that 80 per cent of people in the UK are now more aware of hygiene practices when outside the home, compared to 77 per cent in France and 67 per cent in Germany (1).

“Confidence levels varied from country to country. In France, only 14 per cent of those surveyed were confident with the level of cleanliness and hygiene outside the home since COVID, compared to 20 per cent in the UK (1). Only 20 per cent of people in France felt safe going back to the workplace, compared to 31 per cent in Germany (1), while in the UK, 86 per cent said they would avoid a location if they didn’t think it was COVID-secure, compared to 82 per cent in Germany (1).

“For businesses which are closed due to lockdown and government restrictions, this is a good time to address hygiene practices ready for when they reopen,” adds Neznal. The findings from the survey are crucial in guiding our ability to ensure we offer the best advice and solutions.

“Only companies that win the confidence of their employees and customers will thrive, and from this research it is clear that hygiene is now top of the business agenda. There are no shortcuts to workplace hygiene.”

Perceptions of cleanliness

The survey looked at various sectors including offices, airports, hotels, education locations,  dine-in restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars, and revealed that perceptions about overall levels of cleanliness and hygiene varied considerably from sector to sector.

While many premises and venues remain closed, public washrooms remain open. Demonstrating that a great deal needs to be done to improve facilities, confidence with the levels of cleanliness and hygiene in public washrooms in general was very low, at an alarming five per cent in France and seven per cent in Germany and the UK (1).

In France only 33 per cent said they would feel safe in a public washroom. For the UK this improved to 35 per cent and in Germany, to 39 per cent (1). In public washrooms, 92 per cent of French respondents said they were concerned about using the toilets. Germany was only a little better at 87 per cent and in the UK, it was 83 per cent (1).

The top factor when considering if a public washroom was safe to return to was seeing the washroom is clean (76 per cent, UK; 73 per cent, France; 67 per cent Germany). Meanwhile, seeing employees actively cleaning was an important factor in the UK at 74 per cent but less so in France at 54 per cent and Germany at only 44 per cent (1). Public washrooms are a critical amenity for many, but more needs to be done to elevate hygiene in these facilities.

Prioritising surface wiping

While washroom hygiene remains a top priority, hotspots now also need to be considered. The guidance from the World Health Organisation is to use a two-step clean and disinfect process. The recommendations are to routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace such as workstations, handrails, doorknobs and shared equipment. Science indicates why these surfaces need daily hygiene protocols in addition to good hand hygiene standards in facilities (2).

With safety in mind, the survey asked which facilities people would prefer to see in washrooms. In every sector, hand sanitiser and antibacterial soap were among the highest priorities. In public washrooms, touchless taps were high on the list (73 per cent, UK; 70 per cent, Germany; 67 per cent France), followed by touchless automatic doors (71 per cent, Germany; 69 per cent, UK; 66 per cent France).

The focus on touchless technologies highlighted varying levels of concern around germ hotspots. When away from home, 73 per cent of French respondents were worried about touching the railings on public transport (70 per cent, UK; 64 per cent, Germany), while 67 per cent in the UK were concerned about opening doors or touching lift buttons (68 per cent, France; 56 per cent, Germany) (1). Unsurprisingly, as there has been a significant shift towards contactless payments, 65 per cent in the UK were worried about using cash machines and 64 per cent in handling money (53 per cent and 49 per cent, France; 50 per cent and 43 per cent, Germany).

To help businesses get back on their feet and restore confidence, Kimberly-Clark Professional  has introduced the 360? Hygiene & Protection programme. A free, no obligation virtual hygiene walk is available to book at

1.Source: How has COVID-19 affected perceptions of cleanliness and hygiene? Harris Interactive on behalf of Kimberly-Clark; July 2020. UK n=1,097


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