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Personal Hygiene in the Workplace

Picture of feather duster When you hear "personal hygiene in the workplace" I bet you get a mental picture of some guy at the office that everyone wishes would suck on a Tic-Tac or two – right?

Actually, that’s not really the workplace I have in mind. Those of you that go off to work got it easy. You have no choice but to shower and shave before you run out the door.

It’s us folks that work from home that get ourselves into trouble with personal hygiene. How many times do you say, "I’ll do this first and then take a shower"? Next thing you know the day is half spent and you've never even brushed your hair, let alone had a shower.

I’ve seen TV commercials that encourage people to work from home in their pajamas like it’s some great achievement! But, take it from me, personal hygiene in the workplace is even more important if you work from home!


I’ve always been a little like Victor Hugo when I work. If you know who that is, you may take a moment or two in order to boast a little before continuing. For those of you that think his name rings a bell, you’re right! He’s the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame!

Victor Hugo was a guy that had no concept of personal hygiene in the workplace. Why? Because he worked from home, that’s why! He would get so wrapped up in his work that he would go days without getting dressed. Eventually, he simply took off his clothes and wrapped his naked body in a blanket. Sure cuts down on laundry! But, that’s not the lesson I’m trying to reinforce here.

No, I’m not sitting here typing while wrapped up in a blanket, but I think I was headed that way. And if you think it’s not so important to hop in that shower in the morning you may be on that path as well.

Let me tell you what snapped me out of my pajamas and got me so interested in personal hygiene in the workplace. It’s an embarrassing story, but if I can help even just one work from home person get dressed before noon, it’ll be worth it!

An Invaluable Lesson in Personal Hygiene

As in typical "busy day" fashion, I ate my supper while un-showered yet again. After the children took their nice hot baths, I went down to the kitchen to do the dishes.

As I stood in front of the sink, I waited patiently for the water to get hot. Hmmm? Still not hot, I thought. That’s odd. All of a sudden it hit me that I hadn’t taken a shower!

Could it be that we didn’t have anymore hot water? Say it ain’t so!

All day long we had hot water, but I had to wait until Friday evening (with a repairman on holiday until Monday) before I felt the need to shower!

I tried not to panic. I decided to go to bed without a shower and see what the morning would bring. Secretly, I hoped that the water heater would be magically repaired while I slept. Evidently, "magic repairs" only happen to shoemakers in fairy tales, because when I awoke the water was just as icy cold as it was the night before!

I weighed the various options available to me. Obviously, waiting until Monday wasn’t something I wanted to do. Boiling pots of water and carrying them up the stairs to fill up the tub didn’t exactly sound fun. Lastly, I considered a sponge bath.

Yeah, just like in that movie Witness with Harrison Ford. I pictured the leading lady (can’t remember her name for the life of me) giving herself a sponge bath. It was a very sensual scene. I began to picture myself doing the same thing. But somehow, my mind’s eye got a totally different image!

I saw myself struggling to keep my skinny leg stretched out in such a position as to keep my foot in that sink just long enough to wash between my toes.

I saw myself covered with soapy bubbles that I had no way of completely rinsing off.

I saw myself sprawled out flat on the floor - thanks to the bare feet on sopping wet linoleum.

Believe me when I say that by the time my imagination was through, I definitely did not want to see myself taking a sponge bath!

I had to bite the bullet (wish I had one – would of kept my teeth from chattering) and take an ice cold shower after all. But, it was my own fault for not practicing personal hygiene in the workplace to begin with!

This is when I realized that I was suffering from a full blown case of Victor Hugo Syndrome! If you work from home you are a high risk candidate for developing this disorder as well.

Study these classic symptoms that more and more people that work from home are suffering from. Remember, knowledge is power!

Symptoms of Victor Hugo Syndrome

  • When the UPS guy pulls up in front of your house you hide in the kitchen because you're not fit to be seen.
  • Every room in your house has a funny smell, but only when you're in it.
  • People have said that you're looking a lot like a mad scientist lately.
  • You’ve thought about just having someone slip you your meals underneath the bolted door that leads to your secret laboratory.
  • During the course of the day you have a strong desire to wrap yourself in a blanket and continue on with your work.

The symptoms listed above are in order of the syndrome’s progression. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms take a shower and put on some decent clothes immediately!

If you feel confident that you do not have Victor Hugo Syndrome, let's keep it that way. Put into action these simple Personal Hygiene Tips and know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of deodorant!

Personal Hygiene Tips for People Who Work From Home

  • Don’t be taken in by “get rich quick” scams that promise an "in your pajamas" workday.
  • Never take your water heater for granted. And to be on the safe side, always make sure you shower before your spouse.
  • If you must take a sponge bath, don’t think about it. Just do it.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror at least twice a day. That alone should scare you into action.

And last, but not least...

  • Don’t put off until tomorrow what should have been showered today.
Got a little more time to kill? Okay - then go ahead and read about some personal hygiene in medical history.

A Little Personal Hygiene History

Here’s a little personal hygiene history that I heard sometime back. For some reason it stuck with me. It's a perfect example of the importance of personal hygiene in the workplace!

In the mid 1800s an Austrian doctor, Philipp Semmelweiss (you know I had to look that name up!) was working at the Vienna Maternity Hospital. At that time there was a disease known as childbred fever that was killing young mothers left and right.

1 out of 4 mothers were dying each month. No one knew why or what to do about it. Oddly enough, mothers that delivered their babies with the help of midwives had a much lower death rate.

Dr. Semmelweiss noticed that the midwives washed their hands a lot, (hello!) whereas the doctors in the maternity ward were running from patient to patient with unwashed hands and blood stained coats. These dirty handed doctors would even go straight to the maternity ward after performing an autopsy on a corpse! Can anyone say antibacterial soap?

Dr. Semmelweiss (I’ve almost got the spelling down) started to insist that doctors should wash their hands just like the midwives. The other doctors argued that it was just a silly "woman" thing to do. But Semmelweiss was persistent, and demanded that his students wash their hands. The deaths of young mothers dropped to 1 in 100 during this time.

Unfortunately, getting these doctors to wash their hands was worse than trying to get a child to wash behind their ears. So soon they went back to their old ways and the deaths once more increased.

It wasn’t until after the death of Semmelweiss in the late 1860s that people began to "see" that microscopic organisms could spread disease. Funny... they just didn't understand the importance of washing their hands. Didn’t their mothers teach them anything?

Oil and Water?

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