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Your Office Kitchen Is Gross. Here’s How to Fix It.

Topics: Work Culture
Shared office kitchens and company break rooms are often some of the grossest places in the modern workplace. There’s just something about a communal space. The mess often tends to spiral out of control. The grime itself is just part of the problem.
office kitchen
HaPe_Gera/Flickr

The annoyances associated with a perpetually messy common area can lead to resentment among coworkers. Plus, dirty kitchens can make you sick. A study on viruses in workplace settings found that germs from a sick individual had spread to 50 percent of the surfaces and employees after just four hours, according to Healthline. Keeping a cleaner kitchen means employees have a better shot at staying healthy. So, here are some tips for getting things in order:

1. Consider giving someone ownership.

One of the main reasons that these common spaces get so messy is that no one in particular is responsible for them. Theoretically of course, everyone is responsible for the space. But, in this case, it often becomes all too easy to ignore the mess, or even contribute to it, and then just pass on by. So, these spaces get out of hand.

One surefire way to fix this is to put a person or a group of people in charge of keeping the space clean. Ownership over the responsibility could also rotate. (Just make sure you’re not pinning these domestic chores on the women in the office. As the saying goes, your mom definitely does not work here.)

This option will probably help keep the space clean. But, it might make the folks who’ve been put in charge pretty unhappy if they’re not compensated for this yucky new responsibility. So, this may or may not be the best option for your office.

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2. Establish clear rules and post them.

Don’t take for granted that everyone understands kitchen etiquette. Does every member of your family always clean up after themselves? It’s just the same at work. It can’t hurt to articulate some clear expectations like “clean up after yourself” and “don’t leave any dishes in the sink.” Then, post these rules in the common space. It’ll be a little harder for individuals to ignore these rules if they look at them every day.

3. Hire someone.

Problems tend to snowball in shared workspaces, turning small issues into big ones. Ask yourself if this is really worth the potential stress and aggravation. Perhaps there’s an easier way to resolve the problem. If you’re a manager or other decision-maker, consider hiring a professional janitorial service to help keep the space clean. Sure, it will cost a little something, but it saves a lot of time and energy, too. In the end, it just might be worth it.

In one study, germs from a sick person spread to 50 percent of workplace surfaces in just four hours.Click To Tweet

4. Gross out your coworkers with the germ thing.

It might be helpful to remind all employees about the spread of germs in the office and how important it is to keep surfaces clean. This is especially essential in areas that see a lot of traffic. Try sharing some of this vital information with folks who share the space. It might help some step up their cleaning game a bit.

“Workplace environments typically include numerous sites where people congregate, such as in the shared kitchen, shared copy room, bathrooms, and shared conference rooms. These shared sites act as central germ transfer stations,” Kelly Reynolds PhD, and lead author of a study on workplace viruses, told Healthline. “As workers move about the office and touch surfaces they leave behind germs picked up along the way.”

5. Try offering a reward.

If all else fails, and if hiring outside help isn’t an option, why not try something like a fishbowl full of candy? That’s the kind of thing that entices many office workers to all kinds of feats. Pin a sign to the outside of the fishbowl that says “take one for doing your dishes.” Or something to that effect. This could lead to a cleaner kitchen for a marginal cost. Sure, some jerk might take a treat for no reason, but most will be respectful. And, they might even start going the extra mile.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you solved the problem of the super-gross office kitchen? We want to hear from you! Share your tips in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.


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