Final word with Renée Remijnse

New office designs, new hygiene needs.


As we see office design shifting from one-size-fits-all to solutions accommodating different needs and activities, we also need to consider how this influences employees. 

Ask yourself how the office workspace has been altered over the past five years. Chances are there have been changes in layout, design, desk arrangements, meeting rooms, etc. These adjustments are affecting work routines, hygiene demands and how comfortable people feel in the office.

Peaceful office with social interaction

There has been a lot of discussion about how to optimise office space, design and flexible working and I want to share some insights into how employees feel about this. Recent research undertaken by Essity’s hygiene brand Tork has uncovered some interesting findings for everyone working in the office products and facilities management industries, and even architects.

A survey of 8,000 office employees in 17 international cities showed that 65% of staff feel office space design has an impact on the atmosphere in the working environment. But what kind of office do they want? Demands seem somewhat contradictory. Although 47% of employees say they prefer an office that encourages more social interaction, at the same time, 65% want a quieter and more peaceful working environment. So it’s wise not to go ‘overboard’ with a new layout, keep some closed offices and create ‘hidden spaces’ or silence booths. A gradual change, where employees can have some input, is likely to result in the most support.

Escape to the toilet

Open workspaces and social interactions are also creating new demands for hygiene in the office. It’s not surprising that people spend more time in the office ‘rest’ areas to take a break, rehearse presentations, and talk and text on their phones – all clear signs they need some privacy. The washroom can in fact become one of these escape places from noise, colleagues and stressful situations. 

Working in a flexible office myself, I’ve also noticed other hygiene issues popping up. Finding someone else’s coffee mug on ‘my’ desk makes me wonder immediately: who was it, did he/she also eat at the desk and was it cleaned afterwards?

Today’s work environment leaves people with new hygiene needs and personal hygiene standards. Essity research shows a number of examples of hygiene frustrations in the office:

  • Finding hairs from colleagues in sinks and on floors (64%)
  • Colleagues’ dirty or smelly clothes (63%)
  • Desk crumbs and stains from food (62%)
  • People coughing and sneezing openly (57%)
  • Using the same toilet as strangers (42%)

Create an open dialogue

As we spend so much time in the office, an open dialogue between staff, office managers and facility managers would benefit everyone. Cleaning routines might need to be altered to go hand in hand with office design in a much more efficient way. A first step could be a survey about cleaning routines, which would give answers to questions such as whether employees would prefer to clean their own desks, would like better washroom facilities or are even aware there is a clean desk policy. 

As we shift towards sharing a more open office space, adopting solutions that enable employees to be more proactive in ensuring better office hygiene are likely to increase in demand. So take a look around your office, talk to people about their hygiene and cleaning needs, check the washrooms – and wash your hands afterwards!

Essity, maker of the Tork brand, is a global hygiene and health company that develops, produces and sells personal care, consumer tissue and professional hygiene products and solutions. Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Essity was part of SCA Group until April 2017 when it became a separately-listed company.