Handwashing: A Corporate Activity

Handwashing is an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to prevent the spread of germs and keep employees healthy 1, 2.

hands under a faucet in a corporate restroom

Handwashing gives people the opportunity to take an active role in their own health. Most handwashing studies have focused on child care or health care settings. The few that have looked at corporate settings show that promoting clean hands results in fewer employee sick days 3.

Improving Health

Germs can spread quickly. A healthier community means healthier employees. Handwashing education in the community:

  • Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31% 4
  • Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58% 5
  • Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 21% 6

Saving Time and Money

shaking hands with a coworker

Handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness to others.

Sick employees are less productive even when they come to work. They may also spread illness to others at work. One recent study promoting clean hands in corporate environments showed:

  • Fewer employee illnesses
  • Less use of sick days

Helping Families and Workforces Thrive

Employees with healthy children spend less time away from work taking care of sick children, are more productive at work when not dealing with family illness, and get sick less often themselves.

Employers should promote employee handwashing and encourage them to also:

  • Teach their children good handwashing technique
  • Remind children to wash their hands
  • Wash hands with their children
hands under a faucet with running water

Despite widespread knowledge of the importance of handwashing, there is still room for improvement. A recent study showed that only 31% of men and 65% of women washed their hands after using a public restroom 7.

  1. Curtis V, Schmidt W, Luby S, Florez R, Touré O, Biran A. Hygiene: new hopes, new horizons.external icon Lancet Infect Dis. 2011;11(4):312-21.
  2. Jamieson D, Breman J, Measham A, Alleyne G, Claeson M, Evans D, Jha P, Mills A, Musgrove P. Disease control priorities in developing countries.external icon 2006. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  3. Hubner N, Hubner C, Wodny M, Kampf G, Kramer A. Effectiveness of alcohol-based hand disinfectants in a public administration: impact on health and work performance related to acute respiratory symptoms and diarrhoea.external icon BMC Infect Dis. 2010;10:250.
  4. Ejemot RI, Ehiri JE, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing for preventing diarrhoea.external icon Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;1:CD004265.
  5. Huang DB, Zhou J. Effect of intensive handwashing in the prevention of diarrhoeal illness among patients with AIDS: a randomized controlled study.external icon J Med Microbiol. 2007;56(5):659-63.
  6. Aiello AE, Coulborn RM, Perez V, Larson EL. Effect of hand hygiene on infectious disease risk in the community setting: a meta-analysis.external icon Am J Public Health. 2008;98(8):1372-81.
  7. Judah G, Aunger R, Schmidt WP, Michie S, Granger S, Curtis V. Experimental pretesting of hand-washing interventions in a natural setting.external icon Am J Public Health. 2009;99 (2):S405-11.

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Page last reviewed: July 25, 2016