Four lessons learnt from Hand Hygiene Day May 10th, 2013, by Ken Buckley

Out of all the health messages you send your employees, the one with the most impact would have to be the simplest: wash your hands. It’s the sheer simplicity of this message which makes it so powerful.

Too often, as Health and Wellness professionals, you can end up making things terribly complicated. All for good reason – you try to create promotional campaigns that are engineered to motivate a particular group, or you try to ensure it’s strategically aligned with corporate mission statements, or you bend over backwards to make it fun, interesting, cool, engaging, valuable, meaningful – and so on.

Yet a simple message to wash your hands (properly!) can reduce winter illnesses in all workplaces, and have major impacts in customer-focused workplaces such as hospitality, not to mention healthcare.

World Hand Hygiene day was last Sunday 5 May, and health care facilities the world over went all-out with promotional campaigns, as did many workplaces.

There are a number of reasons why Hand Hygiene Campaigns are so effective, and we can learn from these:

1.       There’s a clear call to action

With some promotional campaigns, it’s hard to see exactly what you should be doing about it. Either there are too many calls to action (“Eat more vegetables! Eat more lean protein! Get enough calcium! Eat fruit but not too much!) or there’s no action at all (“We are introducing a new health campaign, coming soon”.)

With “Wash your hands, here’s how” it’s very clear what you need to do, and how you need to do it.

2.       It’s do-able

You don’t need special skills, or lots of time, or a certain fitness level, or be around at 2.30pm on Tuesday. Everyone can wash their hands properly, every time.

3.       There’s complete personal control

You don’t need to rely on someone else to do something. You are in full control of how well you wash your hands (assuming the soap container is filled up!) Team-based activities certainly have their benefits, but there’s something to be said for personal autonomy.

4. The WIIFM is immediate

The personal benefits (What’s In It For Me) of handwashing are clear and immediate. Get sick less. Avoid colds and flus this winter.

So how to keep it interesting and current year on year? Turns out there are a hundred ways to say “wash your hands”. Here’s some inspiration from around the world:



Image 1 is Healthworks hand washing poster, which you can order online here. We can also create a customised poster for your organisation, using a hand hygiene message (or other health message) of your choice. Contact us to find out more.

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