In low-income households across the U.S., 34% of families reported struggles to afford basic household goods. On that list of basic essentials families cannot go without or are not easy to replace are daily personal hygiene items: toothpaste, bath soap, deodorant, and shampoo, to name a few examples.
While this inability to access basic household necessities has far-reaching implications, one of the variables that’s important to address is what this means from an employment standpoint.
How Poor Personal Hygiene Influences the Interview Process
When you talk about job interviews, a common sentiment you hear is to show up as the best version of yourself. While this means doing your homework to prepare yourself for the interview, it’s also a matter of conveying professionalism through your appearance.
In a 2020 Recruiter Nation Survey report, 46% of recruiters noted bad hygiene as a top behavior that would prompt them to disqualify a job candidate. While this represents a slight drop from 52% in 2017, it’s clear that poor hygiene still plays an important role in whether or not an applicant moves forward in the interview process.
When individuals can’t afford these personal hygiene items, it can create a frustrating cycle where a low-income state keeps them from finding work to increase their income.
And in some cases, poor hygiene can deter individuals from going to job interviews altogether. According to The Hygiene Bank’s 2022 report, one in eight (or 13%) of those experiencing hygiene poverty had avoided going to a job interview.
How Poor Personal Hygiene Affects an Employee’s Performance
Good personal hygiene can have a powerful impact on one’s self confidence. While this positive self-esteem carries over into many aspects of life, the workplace is one of them.
When employees don’t have access to basic personal care items, they are more likely to be preoccupied with hygiene-related thoughts when interacting with co-workers, from the smell of their breath to the appearance of their hair.
Holding onto these thoughts can distract employees from their work and trigger a negative mindset that further hinders their productivity.
From an employer standpoint, without knowing an employee’s situation at home, a lack of personal hygiene can be read as a sign that an employee simply does not care about their appearance.
This can often turn into a scenario where employees are passed up for promotion or conference speaking opportunities, and their confidence is further hurt.
How Poor Personal Hygiene Impacts Employee Absenteeism
While dental problems can lead to a myriad of issues — from general pain to difficulty eating — they also have a significant impact on workplace productivity.
In one 2018 study, it was reported that an average of 320.8 million work or school hours were lost annually for dental care in the U.S. Individuals with poor oral health were more likely to miss out on one or more hours of work in unplanned dental visits, as compared to those that reported good oral health.
What’s more, those who couldn’t afford dental care were also more apt to lose additional hours due to unplanned visits to the dentist office.
While it’s expected that employees will miss workdays throughout the year, a string of unplanned appointments due to oral health and other personal care issues can lead to issues in the workplace.
Alongside the costs for the business (both from a productivity loss and insurance plan cost standpoint), the need for other employees to cover the work of absentee co-workers can create internal frustrations — and put lower-income employees at the center of it all in a difficult lose-lose situation.
The Provision Promise to Give Back to Those In Need
It’s not an uncommon scenario for families to find themselves in a position where they need to prioritize some expenses over others.
Circling back to the Feeding America research project, 40% of low-income families and 32% of higher-income families said they had skipped or delayed their rent payment in the past year to afford non-food household items.
We want to help change this dynamic, one essential item at a time.
At Provision Promise, our goal is to raise funds and partner with local food banks to deliver basic care household items to those in need.
Our focus is specifically on those personal care items that are not covered by food stamps or SNAP: toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, laundry detergent, shampoo, soaps, and other household essentials.
Through these efforts, we hope to — among other outcomes — help job applicants and employees of all economic backgrounds be confident and productive in the workplace.