Gone are the childhood days when we furrowed our brow and pathetically forced a cough to convince mom we’re too sick for grade school. Ferris Bueller’s sickness deception tricks are no longer useful in the working world; a sick day or two does nothing but intensify stress and compile catch-up work. With the winter holidays around the corner, the last thing we need is more stress!

Conveniently, December 3 – 9  is National Handwashing Awareness Week. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls handwashing a “do-it-yourself vaccine.” Informed and strict handwashing habits are a key stress preventer for the busy bodies of the business world.

Are you guilty of any of the following common handwashing mistakes?

  • Skipping Drying Handwashing is a 5-Step process: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry. The final step is just as important as the first few, and if you catch yourself wiping your still-wet hands on your jeans after exiting the restroom, you’re setting up a cozy environment for bathroom bacteria. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research reports that bacteria spreads more easily to and from wet hands. They note that paper towels are hygienically superior to air-dryers, since air-dryers have been found to spread bacteria from three to six feet from the device.
  • Sanitizing Instead of Washing Keeping a bottle of at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer at your desk is always a good idea, but a pump of hand sanitizer is no substitution for the real deal. According to the CDC, hand sanitizers might not eliminate all types of germs or be able to remove some harmful chemicals. Soap and water is the best way to fight germs.
  • Taking Shortcuts How long do you usually scrub for? The CDC recommends scrubbing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (about the same time it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice through. Don’t forget to scrub the tops of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails!

  • Timing and Touch Have you ever closed the bathroom stall behind you, fixed your hair, scratched behind your ear, and then approached to sink to wash your hands? Think twice before touching your hair or face after using the restroom–this is a quick way for bacteria to spread and hurt you. Head straight to the sink from the stall.
  • Infrequent Washing It’s ingrained in most of us to wash after using the restroom, but it’s also important to thoroughly wash your hands after handling garbage, touching public surfaces, touching animals, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

The winter months are prime time for many common illnesses. If offices work together to promote thorough handwashing, employees might avoid strep throat or the flu. Consider mounting handwashing infographics near the bathroom or the office kitchen sink to encourage a healthy and happy office!

Sharon Schweitzer and Emilie Lostracco co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Emilie Lostracco is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication Intern with Access to Culture. The Montreal native is currently a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, studying International Relations and Global Studies. Emilie specializes in international environmental efforts, European studies, and French. She plans on graduating with honors in December. Connect with her via Linkedin.

Image Credit: PexelsGiphyGeorge Hodan,