Creating a Culture Where Employees Clean Up After Themselves

Employee playing with crumpled paper Employee playing with crumpled paper

Did you know that one of the most wanted office “features” by employees around the world is cleanliness? The problem is that it’s easy for you, as the business owner or CEO, to provide a clean office. Keeping it that way is another story because then it involves everyone. You need all of your employees to clean up after themselves and do it consistently.

This seems like a simple case of cooperation. However, it’s a little tricky to build a “clean as you go” culture if your employees aren’t used to it. So how do you create and sustain this culture? Here are a few suggestions.

Put Witty Reminders in Problem Areas

Most of the time, people don’t mean to be messy. Sometimes, they’re just preoccupied with an upcoming deadline. Sometimes, they really, truly, honest-to-goodness forgot. If this is the case, perhaps simple reminders would be more than sufficient. Try to keep the reminders fun, witty, and occasionally biting. For example, in the bathroom, place a sign above the toilet that says “Gentlemen: If You Sprinkle When You Tinkle, Please Be Neat and Wipe the Seat.” If the dishes in the office pantry are a particular problem, try hanging a sign that says “Don’t Like Washing the Dishes? Save Yourself the Trouble and Don’t Eat!”

Use Visual Reminders

Humans are highly visual creatures. Indeed, they’re more likely to remember images than words. If the textual reminders aren’t working, perhaps it’s time you shifted to visual reminders. If you want people to stop bringing their coffee mugs near the copier, try using a visual of an important document covered in coffee stains. You can also try posting pictures of cartoon eyes in areas where people are most likely to leave messy. It could get a little unnerving but people usually don’t like being watched and “reprimanded” even by emoji or caricature eyes. These “watchful” graphics might encourage your employees to behave and keep things neat.

Try a Little Bit of Pressure

Sometimes, some mild “threats” can work wonders. For example, try to send a blanket email to the staff saying that any food left in the fridge will be thrown out every Friday. Putting it in writing will make it “official” thus be taken a little more seriously. This method could be a little harsher than the other in this list, but it can also be quite effective. Just make sure to couple this with some positive reinforcement so your employees will feel motivated, not bullied.

Hire a Commercial Cleaning Company

You might think it’s counterintuitive to hire a commercial cleaning company to foster a culture of cleanliness for your employees. However, getting a cleaning crew is a great way to set the standard. This way, your employees will know exactly what’s expected of them. Let everyone know when the cleaning company would be coming and then ask them to note the difference after the crew is finished.  It’s a good exercise to help your employees determine for themselves what exactly they should be doing more of. In the beginning, it might be a good idea to schedule longer intervals between the cleaning. This may help your employees realise just how big of a mess they sometimes leave in the office.

Stress the Importance of a Clean Office

On average, a person spends about 50 per cent of their time in the office. That’s a lot of hours where you can possibly get sick from germs and viruses sitting on surfaces and circulating in the air. We don’t know about you but that’s definitely a scary, sobering thought. Talk to your employees and emphasise how a clean office is vital to their health. If the office is dirty, it’s more likely to harbour harmful pathogens. It can also invite pests like mice and cockroaches that can spread disease.

You should also associate cleanliness as a key to happiness in the workplace. Indeed, clutter can be a stressor and can influence productivity. If your employees want to be more efficient, they should be actively striving to keep the office clean.

Schedule a Cleaning Day

For some people, cleaning is literally a chore and therefore not fun. It’s up to you to make it something a little more enjoyable. Try to set at least half a day dedicated to just cleaning and organising. Send unneeded files to recycling, sort the supply room, and wipe down desks. You can also use the time to encourage your employees to personalise their workspaces for a boost of inspiration. Remember the cleaning company you hired? Try to bring them in to share some cleaning tips. They could also act as judges for an impromptu cleaning contest.

Your beautifully designed office with modern equipment and furniture won’t matter one bit if the premises are messy and dirty. More crucially, it won’t matter if your employees aren’t as invested in keeping everything spic and span. Try these few tips and see which ones stick in creating a culture of cleanliness in the workplace.