a person using a toothbrush

Addressing Your Employees’ Hygiene Problems Without Sounding Offensive

Your employees’ poor personal hygiene may not affect their skills, but it can affect their colleagues’ performances. Of course, no one wants to share a workstation with someone who reeks of cigarette smoke or has bad breath. But how will you address such problems without sounding offensive?

This problem might be more common than you think. But you shouldn’t ignore it. Instead, address it professionally so that you won’t humiliate or embarrass the employee in question.

Workplace hygiene is a legitimate factor of an efficient company. It refers to practices that aim to maintain a safe and healthy working environment.

That said, here are the ways to address an employee’s poor hygiene:

1. Set Personal Hygiene Expectations

The least offensive way to bring up someone’s poor hygiene is addressing all employees about it. But, of course, you won’t mention the specific employee’s name. Instead, you can create guidelines on good workplace hygiene.

Stress points such as the recommended number of times people should shower or bathe every week. Back them up with research data, like how skipping a shower for a week affects the body. In addition, include the reasons your employees should put on deodorants or wear cologne.

To encourage your employees to follow your guidelines, state how good personal hygiene affects work performance. You can also include its impact on self-confidence. Employees with self-esteem or self-image issues could use that advice.

This approach may or may not resolve a particular employee’s poor hygiene, but at least you can plant that idea in their mind. People with body odor or bad breath often aren’t aware of their problem. But by bringing up personal hygiene at work, you may inspire them to change their self-care routine. It won’t likely happen overnight but discussing hygiene as often as you could make a difference.

2. Consider Health Issues

A medical issue can cause bad breath. Hence, before your company’s annual physical exam, encourage all your employees to get tested for diseases even if they don’t feel any symptoms. Ideally, include a dental exam in your annual physical exam as well. After all, dental problems are one of the leading causes of bad breath.

If health issues cause your employees’ hygiene problems, they will find out about it during their physical exam. As a result, they can make lifestyle changes without facing confrontation from you or their colleagues. It saves everyone from the embarrassment and discomfort of addressing such private problems.

3. Improve Your Workplace’s Washrooms

a bathroom sink

Another possible reason for lousy hygiene is run-down washrooms. If your workplace still uses the same faucets and sinks from 20 years ago, it’s long overdue for a washroom remodeling.

High-quality commercial washrooms should have easy-to-clean surfaces, adequate lighting, and efficient plumbing fixtures. Its surrounding surfaces should repel moisture so that they won’t develop molds. Maintain the washrooms thoroughly, calling a plumber as soon as a leak arises. Letting washroom and bathroom issues linger contributes to poor hygiene. It forces even employees who are usually clean to compromise their good habits to stay away from your dirty washroom.

4. Make Good Hygiene a Deciding Factor for Hiring a Candidate

If a job candidate possesses all the right skills but shows up on the interview with a foul odor, you may reject their application. Doing so is legal as long as you won’t tell them that you turned them down because of their hygiene. However, rejecting them because of hygiene issues caused by a medical problem may put you under legal fire, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This law protects individuals with physical or mental impairments from discrimination. Therefore, if you rejected a candidate for having gum disease and bad breath, you could be sued for discrimination. And even if they don’t have a medical issue, the candidate may still assume that you discriminated against them. Making a big deal out of their hygiene can make it look like you regarded them as having a disability. Hence, it’s best not to mention a candidate’s hygiene problems. Instead, say that you didn’t find them the perfect fit for the job upon further consideration.

5. Implement Illness Policies

Lastly, reinforce your illness policies as we’re still battling a pandemic. An employee showing any symptoms should stay at home. In addition, make frequent hand-washing and disinfecting a policy. Finally, require employees to eat separately as well. They can only sit at the same table if they are wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

You should take workplace hygiene seriously. It may be a private matter, but it affects your employees’ well-being. And it is your responsibility as their employer to care for their well-being. Besides, good hygiene also indicates professionalism.

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