How to Handle Hygiene Concerns in the Workplace

How to Handle Hygiene Concerns in the Workplace

No one wants to work in an unhygienic environment. Some of the common hygiene issues seen at the workplace include unclean offices and washrooms, poor personal hygiene by employees, shared spaces neglect, lack of waste management, inadequate cleaning supplies, pest infestations, lack of ventilation and improper hygiene education for employees. In order to prevent productivity losses caused by employees taking sick leave, you need to identify and promptly deal with common hygiene-related problems. Some ways to handle hygiene concerns in the workplace are as follows:

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  • Confirm if there is a hygiene issue in the workplace- This can be done through physical inspection of the workplace, employee feedback, monitoring and tracking health incidents, paying attention to odor and air quality, keeping a check for pest infestations, reviewing the cleaning and maintenance records and through expert consultations.
  • Understand workers’ rights- Workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace which includes proper hygiene standards and sanitary facilities. They have a right to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks to safeguard against hygiene related risks. Employees have the right to report unsanitary conditions or hygiene issues to their supervisors, managers, or relevant authorities without facing retaliation. In cases where work-related hygiene issues lead to health problems, workers have the right to seek medical attention. Workers’ hygiene rights are often protected under local, state, and national health and safety regulations. 
  • Meet with the employee in private- : Find a private and comfortable space where you can speak to the employee without any distractions or interruptions. This ensures that the conversation remains confidential and respectful.
  • Be tactful but direct- Be specific and objective in expressing your concern. Start with positivity and use “I” statements. Frame your feedback using neutral and non-judgmental language. Focus on the observable behavior rather than making personal remarks. For example, say, “I’ve noticed a particular odor in the office” rather than directly addressing the person’s smell.
  • Give the employee an opportunity to speak- Encourage the employee to share their perspective and feelings. They may have reasons or challenges that contribute to the issue. Listen actively without interrupting and have an open dialogue. 
  • Set expectations and document- Clearly outline the hygiene standards expected in the workplace and how they contribute to a healthy and professional environment. Emphasize the importance of maintaining these standards moving forward. Document the conversation.
  • Discuss solutions- Discuss practical solutions or suggestions to help improve the situation. This could include reminding them to bring a change of clothes, recommending personal hygiene products, or suggesting they keep a clean workspace.
  • Be sincere and empathetic- Acknowledge sensitivity and offer support by reassuring the employee that your intention is to help them succeed and feel comfortable at work. Throughout the conversation, maintain a positive and empathetic tone. Your goal is to help the employee while fostering a respectful and healthy work environment.


  1. How do you address employees with poor hygiene?

Choose a confidential setting to have a conversation with them about their unhygienic behavior. Start positively and listen actively. Offer suggestions to help the employee improve their hygiene. Collaboratively create an action plan with the employee to address the issue. If necessary, offer training or guidance on proper hygiene practices to ensure the employee has the knowledge and resources to make improvements.

  1. What will you do if someone has poor hygiene in your workplace?

Have a private discussion with the employee with poor hygiene and express your concern. Have an objective observation and listen actively. Offer your support. Collaboratively, develop an action plan to address the hygiene concern. If the issue persists despite efforts, involve the HR department to explore further options, such as providing additional training, counseling, or medical assistance.

  1. How do you address a smelly employee?

Choose the right time and place to express your concern and support. Use tactful language and provide specific instances where the odor has been noticeable. This helps the employee understand that the issue is affecting their colleagues and the work environment. If appropriate and with sensitivity, discuss potential factors that could contribute to the odor, such as clothing, diet, medical conditions, or personal habits. Provide information about proper hygiene practices and offer practical solutions. This could include suggestions for personal care products, laundering clothes, and maintaining a clean workspace. Involve HR if necessary.

  1. How can we improve workplace hygiene?

Workplace hygiene can be improved by educating employees through training and workshops on hygiene practices, developing hygiene policies and guidelines, ensuring sanitary facilities, having regular cleaning, promoting waste management, ensuring ventilation and air quality, providing protective personal equipment (PPE), implementing wellness programs, making hygiene supplies available and conducting regular audits.


Handling hygiene concerns in the workplace requires a thoughtful and proactive approach to ensure the well-being of employees and maintain a clean and healthy environment. Improving workplace hygiene requires a collective effort from both management and employees. By implementing these strategies, you can create a healthier and more pleasant work environment that contributes to the overall well-being and productivity of your team and the organization.

As a manager, the personal hygiene of employees is one of the most sensitive situations. Persistent hygiene problems, such as bad breath or body odor, may stem from physical or health problems. Work that often works outdoors will definitely make the hygiene problem worse.

Because it is too sensitive, you would naturally want to ignore it, hoping that it will solve itself in some way. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. If left unresolved, this problem may become a major interference factor in the workplace. Hoping that my colleagues can deal with it is not a viable option. Your attempts may be found to be hurt and offensive, and put pressure on team relationships. From a business risk perspective, this strategy may expose you to various legal issues, including accusations of hostile work environments and even harassment. 

Although it is difficult to discuss health issues with someone, it is best to resolve the issue as soon as possible. The following tips will help you do this as cleverly as possible.

  • Don’t ignore the problem. This is not only unfair to people with poor hygiene, but also your employees should not be exposed to unpleasant smells. 
  • Don’t leave any clues. While it may be tempting to leave mouthwash or deodorant on a person’s desk, it can also be harmful and cause other problems, as described above. Give this person dignity and respect to talk to them directly and personally. 
  • Before you have a meeting, take a moment to put yourself in his place and understand how it feels. It is also important to note that this person may not be aware of the problem at all, so this may be a surprise! 
  •  Meet with each other privately and deal with issues sensitively. You may want to start by saying: “This is a sensitive topic” or “I never want to embarrass you…” Realize that this is embarrassing for both of you. 
  • Focus on business problems or help resolve unresolved potential performance issues. For example, body odor or bad breath may offend potential customers. You may want to let him/her know that this problem will ultimately limit career opportunities. If you focus on business needs, it doesn’t feel like a personal attack. 
  • It is recommended to consult a doctor. Potential health or physical problems may be the culprit, which can then be resolved. 
  • Be  short. This is not a conversation, otherwise you will like it, so it is best to keep it short, to the point, and conduct it in a sensitive and sensitive way.


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