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Workplace hygiene: From COVID to a brighter future

21 September 2021

With much of industry greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Olena Neznal outlines steps she believes manufacturers should prioritise to ensure that their businesses can thrive in the future

THROUGHOUT THE pandemic, the priority for every business has been to maintain continuity. But now, almost two years on, it is time for industry to learn from what has happened and adopt new thinking and new approaches in order to thrive both now and in the future. After all, the impacts of COVID-19 will reverberate for the next decade and beyond.

During this one-off pandemic experience, I have often found inspiration from a Charles R. Swindoll quote: “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” At Kimberly-Clark Professional, we’ve focused on what we can control and prioritised the health and safety of our employees together with business continuity so that we can meet the needs of our customers.

From our insight and experience, we are focused on helping our customers create hygienic, safe, and productive work environments. I would like to offer three key considerations that will help companies apply the pandemic learning’s to create a brighter future.

Build employee confidence

It is crucial that employees are made to feel safe and secure in the workplace. At Kimberly-Clark, the health and well‐being of our employees and partners is our number one priority.

And we know that this enhances your chances of business continuity. For these reasons, workplace hygiene is a greater priority than ever before. We must limit the spread of germs within manufacturing and processing plants that are experiencing major shifts in both operational and cultural norms, and adjust to how people share spaces, equipment and amenities.

Our recent research showed significant behavioural shifts in the workplace that prioritise infection protection. It highlighted that 79% are more aware of hygiene practices outside the home and only 21% are confident about hygiene and cleanliness levels. Overall, the majority of people (85%) say they would avoid visiting a facility that was not COVID-19 safe and 66% want hand sanitiser and cleaning supplies available at all times.

We know that manufacturing and processing plants have experienced huge change because of Covid-19. Our hygiene and protection solutions can help ensure your facility delivers a more hygienic environment, both in the office area and on the production floor. Firstly, we can offer a comprehensive range of wipers including disposable cleaning cloths, pre-saturated wipers and a closed-bucket wiping system as a hygienic alternative to reusable towels or rags. Secondly, we offer hand hygiene and washroom bundles that help keep hygiene top of mind and deliver an efficiency benefit. And thirdly, our PPE is designed to keep your operation running smoothly and your people safe.

Embrace digital

One of the most noticeable impacts of Covid-19 was the rapid evolution to embrace a more digital workplace. At Kimberly-Clark Professional, our three European manufacturing facilities remained fully operational making hygiene and protection solutions around the clock, including hand towels and wipers, while our office-based employees shifted to working from home and relied upon digital tools to stay connected.

This trend is here to stay. Research by Gartner indicates that 74% of business-to-business buyers do not want to see sales representatives face-to-face in the future. So, as new habits are formed, new hybrid ways of working come into being.

We embraced this hybrid way of selling, offering our customers virtual site walks with experts guiding you in every step to selecting the right products and tools for your employees to keep them safe and protected. Our virtual ‘hygiene walk’ can help you identify key areas where you need to consider hygiene upgrades and recommend the right mix of germ-fighting solutions for your property. We also share tips and best practices on communicating changes to employees so that they understand the steps being taken to protect them. This has been well received by our customers and we will continue to offer this service, driving efficiency moving forwards.

Make Sustainability a Priority

COVID-19 has made us more aware of the natural environment, and how we, as humans, interact with it.

As a result, our sustainability goals have risen to the top of our priorities. According to the Carbon Trust, 70% of companies say environmental management and/or sustainability priorities are likely to become ‘somewhat’ or ‘significantly’ more important because of the pandemic.

We are passionate about sustainability at Kimberly-Clark. All of our manufacturing facilities around the world play a critical role in helping to reduce our environmental footprint by half by 2030. For example, our facility in Coleshill, UK has found innovative ways to ensure 100% of their manufacturing waste is diverted away from landfill. Where possible, fibre is screened and washed and then passed back into the manufacturing process to produce tissue products. And where we can’t make tissue, the fibre is turned into bedding for cows!

Not only have we made great strides in waste management, we are also proud to have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 19%. Over the past five years, we have invested in equipment so we can be more efficient with our energy use. This is just the start; we are committed to drive significant improvements.

Brighter future

There is no denying that the pandemic will have a long-lasting impact. The pandemic has clearly increased the focus on workplace health, hygiene, and wellbeing, and at Kimberly-Clark Professional we will continue to work closely with our customers to help them restore confidence and ensure their people are safe.

Olena Neznal is vice president Kimberly-Clark Professional EMEA