Back to news

Commercial cleanliness and hygiene: Cost or investment?

Commercial cleanliness and hygiene: Cost or investment?
For most business owners, particularly of small to medium businesses in New Zealand (whether in professional services, hospitality, or retail), maintaining clean facilities, restrooms, and equipment is essential but also a cost.

Few would see the business case for going above and beyond when it comes to emphasising the health, safety and sanitary experience when clean and tidy is regarded as ‘good enough'. However, the science is emphatic that there is a strong business case for a facility that sets high standards for hygiene, sanitation and health.

Good enough cleanliness costs businesses
The current norm of cleanliness and tidiness in most New Zealand facilities may create an acceptable impression for your business, but is it impressive, safe, and memorable enough to drive repeat business?

It may surprise some that facilities with high hygiene, health and safety standards—and we don't just mean restrooms—earn trust, attract repeat business and encourage greater spending.

For workplaces, particularly small businesses, illness-related absenteeism comes at a substantial cost. However, the workplace is where your staff are most likely to catch a cold, the flu or a stomach bug because of prolonged close contact.

A biennial workplace wellness survey by Southern Cross Health Society and BusinessNZ reveals the average absence rate was 5.5 days per employee throughout 2022. Not only is absenteeism increasing yearly, but it also cost our economy $2.86 billion that year—the median annual cost per employee was $1,235. The endemic presence of COVID-19 does not help this.

A clean, healthy, and hygienic workplace that, for example, offers CO2 air monitoring, touchless restroom appliances and consumables like paper towels, and robust cleaning with high-quality products can save costs related to illness while also boosting staff morale and productivity.

Our standards could be higher
Stories about mice in salads, cockroaches under the table, mould, and bacteria lurking in gym equipment are not unusual, which suggests that New Zealand, for all its clean green image, can do a lot better.

Despite New Zealand's high regulatory framework around cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation, our standards of cleanliness do not appear to be up to par. The things that are letting us down include:

  • Resource limitations (money, staff and equipment)
  • Lack of staff training
  • Inadequate supervision
  • High traffic

How to improve
Better processes and procedures (most businesses do not have any at all), better equipment, design, and higher-quality cleaning products will make a difference, provided staff are trained, and there is sufficient oversight of hygiene standards.

This requires a shift in thinking, but it is an important one.

New Zealand businesses must prioritise health, hygiene and sanitation standards across the board because the evidence is clear that clean equals a return on investment.

  • Reduced Healthcare Costs: The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that handwashing alone can reduce the incidence of respiratory infections by 16-21%, leading to fewer sick days.
  • Increased Customer Loyalty and Retention: According to a study by the WCIA (The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association), 95% of shoppers reported they would avoid an establishment in the future if they encountered dirty restrooms.
  • Productivity Gains: The International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) also reports that clean office environments can boost worker productivity by as much as 5%.
  • Real Estate Value: A study published in "Building and Environment" found that buildings with high cleanliness ratings have a 5-10% increase in their market value compared to those with lower ratings.
  • Customer Perceptions and Decisions: A survey by Harris Interactive found that 86% of adults equate the cleanliness of a restaurant's restroom with the cleanliness of its kitchen. The same study found that 75% would not return to a restaurant with dirty restrooms.
  • Impact on Reviews and Recommendations: According to a study published in the "Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services," customers are more likely to leave positive reviews and recommend a business that maintains high standards of cleanliness.
  • Long-term Customer Relationships: Cleanliness helps attract customers and retain them for the long term. A report by the Retail Consumer Report stated that consumers are more loyal to retail stores that consistently maintain high cleanliness standards. This loyalty can translate into more frequent visits and higher spending.
  • Differentiation in Competitive Markets: Hygiene can be a key differentiator in highly competitive markets.