Should You Be Washing Those Dishes?

Lauren Krause
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Keeping the office kitchen and other communal areas tidy and sanitary is a hot topic for many companies large and small. A good approach to keeping things tidy is to involve the management staff to lead by example, establish standards and make sure all employees are on the same page. Consider the following tips to maintaining a clean office kitchen.

Sanitize Surfaces

Maintaining a clean office kitchen is for more than just aesthetic comfort. It also maintains a healthier environment for everyone. Dishes, utensils and other items that contain food, bacteria and saliva raise the risk of spreading illnesses like colds and flu, so keeping these items washed and dry helps create a healthier office environment overall. Stocking the office kitchen with antibacterial wipes and spray cleaners encourages employees to use these products to keep the office kitchen not only clean but also disinfected.

Co-op Approach

Some offices take a community approach when it comes to keeping the office kitchen clean. Each employee must sign up for weekly office kitchen duty, on a rotating schedule. While everyone is expected to wash their own dishes and clean up break areas, the weekly kitchen monitor is ultimately responsible for wiping down counters and tables, restocking cabinets with coffee or paper towels, and rinsing out the coffeepot each evening at the end of the shift. This approach is effective because everyone shares the responsibility, making it more likely that everyone will remember to clean up after themselves.

Reward Good Behavior

Another way to maintain a clean office kitchen is to reward good behavior. This approach can be done using a star board hung up in the kitchen area. After a staff member completes a certain task, such as loading or unloading the dishwasher or clearing dirty dishes from common areas, a star is added next to his name on the board. At the end of each week, the employee with the most stars wins a certificate, a gift card or some other token of appreciation.

Call Out Bad Behavior

Just as rewarding good office kitchen behavior is effective, so too is calling out bad behavior. Encouraging employees to speak up if they witness a staff member disrespecting the office kitchen is a team-based way of ensuring everyone is sharing the work equitably. Letting others know that it is not okay to leave messes behind is an effective way to remind everyone that keeping the office kitchen tidy is a group effort, and to emphasize teamwork.

The office kitchen is the place for every employee to relax, replenish and rejuvenate. Everyone must share the microwave, refrigerator, coffeemaker and sink. The close proximity to others of different backgrounds, standards and cleanliness habits can create tension and resentment if left unchecked. Encouraging every staff member to take part in office kitchen cleaning encourages teamwork, raises morale and maintains a healthier office environment.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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