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September 2021

The Initial guide to office etiquette: snotty tissues

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Workplace Hygiene, Medical Waste and Waste Disposal

While you shouldn't go into the office while sick we know that going in with a slight cold or hayfever is not out of the norm. Read our latest etiquette guide for the office: what to do with those snotty tissues if you are in the office.

Office hygiene rules for protective measures

protective measures #covid19 in the office

As employees start to return to the workplace, businesses need to re-evaluate how things are done when colleagues are together. They may even need to put policies and procedures in place regarding things that never required monitoring before - in order to ensure a safe and hygienic office environment.  

Workplace etiquette has had to evolve over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic, and simple things to which colleagues may have never have given a second thought (such as tissues) take on more significance in light of the increased infectiousness of the Delta variant (Delta is believed to be more than twice as contagious as previous variants).

The Initial guide to handling snotty tissues:

What to do with snotty tissues in the office during a pandemic #covid19

Here are some tips for guiding your staff on what to do with their used, snotty tissues in order to keep everyone in the workplace both hygienic and productive.

Remember that used tissues which catch droplets from sneezes and coughs are a potential cause of cross-contamination if they are not disposed of correctly. Read more about this in our blog 'How far does a sneeze spread'.

1. Eliminate the root cause - stay at home

The first rule HAS to be that colleagues who are sick stay at home, thereby eliminating any discussion of what to do with used tissues at work ... since they won't be at work.

Presenteeism is simply not acceptable if you pose a risk to other people. Find out more about the economic impact of poor hygiene in our infographic on absenteeism and presenteeism. Businesses need to make sure that colleagues understand the concept of presenteeism and why it's not part of good office etiquette these days. 

However, there are going to be times when colleagues with sniffles from hay fever, allergies, or a mild cold do need to come into the office and are not a health risk to their colleagues. If you are interested in what you can do to help seasonal allergies at work, read our blog on allergies and air quality here. 

2. Don't leave tissues lying around

Once you've blown your nose or sneezed into a tissue, DON'T put it down on a surface like your desk. Whilst touching your own used tissues won’t cause you any harm as you're already infected, there's always the risk of infecting others by contaminating the surface on which you leave the used tissue.

3. Flush - don't bin

The safest way to dispose of used tissues is to flush them down the toilet.

That way, no one has to touch them or empty a bin that has contained used tissues. And, if you've entered the bathroom to flush your tissue away, you are also more likely to remember to wash and dry your hands (see point number 5).

4. If you have to bin them: use a dedicated receptacle

If you absolutely can't get to a bathroom to flush your used tissues, then they should be disposed of in a dedicated bin that is clearly marked, has a closed lid, and has a liner inside it that can be removed entirely and tied closed. These precautions are to protect the cleaning staff who have to empty the bins in your office. 

Bins need to be marked so that staff know to wear gloves when emptying them. The liner should be able to be taken out and tied securely so that cleaners can then dispose of the liner full of used tissues safely in the general waste.    

5. Wash your hands

Washing and drying your hands properly after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose is one of the best ways to minimise cross-contamination via physical contact or surfaces and is recommended by CDC in their "key moments for handwashing" recommendations. Initial can supply you with all of your bathroom consumable requirements such as soap, hand towels, and sanitiser. 

We still believe that washing with soap is your number one defence against all sorts of illnesses - not just Coronavirus - so read all about why we love soap in this previous post.

Talk to Initial about all the hygiene essentials you need to encourage employees back to the office safely. Looking for more resources when it comes to hygiene etiquette in the office? Download our posters: Office Etiquette Posters, and our Bathroom Etiquette Posters.

Download Office Etiqutte Posters

Download Bathroom Etiquette Posters

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at blog.initial.co.za, and our Ambius blog - https://www.ambius.co.za/blog. Life outside of Rentokil Initial mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned twelve, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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