It’s fair to say that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has gone cleanliness-crazy. When cleaning products began selling out when it first started last March, we saw people wearing gloves to the supermarket and even disinfecting their newspapers. Whilst the madness has calmed down (a bit), there are some hygiene standards that people are not willing to budge on – especially in the workplace. Now communal working is slowly being reintroduced, the majority of people are being vigilant when it comes to in-office hygiene, while others are not so concerned. It is fair to say the rise in remember to wash your hands posters will be increasing this year, but even that’s not enough to tackle the worst office habits.

Office habits that workers want to see banned when returning to the office

In the workplace, there is an abundance of habits that can test your patience – it’s just human nature. In a recent survey, instantprint asked 1000 people to list the top 5 habits they find the most disgusting, and the results are as follows:

  1. Not washing your hands after visiting the toilet – 42%
  2. Coming into work with a cough/cold – 37.4%
  3. Kiss greetings – 32.9%
  4. Hugs – 27.8%
  5. Keeping unwashed gym kit in the workplace – 26.5%

Of course, this is all subjective, but it begs the question – has COVID-19 amplified our reactions to bad habits in the workplace, and are we more aware of them than we were before? The short answer is – yes. After months of working alone and being told to avoid human contact, of course working in an office with other people will take some adjustment. But now we are all hyperaware of cleanliness, bad habits like these are going to become increasingly intolerable. So, how do we approach these awkward subjects?

How to confront a colleague about a bad habit

Start gentle – It is easy for people to get on the defensive, especially about something like personal hygiene, so the best way to begin an awkward conversation is by being understanding and keeping it private. This could be enough to make someone realise their mistakes and ensure they don’t happen again.

Listen to their side of the story – It is important to acknowledge the feelings of your co-worker and listen to their side of the story. They might not be aware of their habit, or it could be related to a personal issue they have, so try to empathise as best you can.

Bring a witness – If your efforts to be amicable are unsuccessful, then consider bringing a colleague into your talks – this can help your case if disciplinary action requires escalating further down the line.