Do you wash your hands after you use the restroom?

If you all answered yes, 10% of you are lying.

Last year, the New York Times reported that researchers in Michigan observed 3,749 people in public restrooms and found that 10.3 percent did not wash their hands at all, and 22.8 percent used no soap. The rest used soap, but only 5.3 percent washed for longer than 15 seconds. Apparently, you’re supposed to scrub for at least 20 seconds for optimal disease control.

Of course, these people didn’t know they were being watched. Had they known, it’s pretty much guaranteed the number of proper hand washers would have been significantly higher.

Case in point: A new study from the University of Iowa’s Carver College has found that healthcare workers are 7% more likely to comply with hand hygiene regulations when their colleagues were nearby.

In total, between these two studies, over 50,000 hand hygiene opportunities were recorded, and none of those under observation were aware of it.

“What does this have to do with my career?” you’re wondering, unless you’re a healthcare worker, in which case the implications are obvious.

What it has to do with your career is this: You never know who else might be in that bathroom, so act accordingly.

Last year recruiters shared their job interview horror stories, and one of them said:

“While in the restroom washing my hands I noticed someone walk out of the bathroom stall without washing his hands, ‘Gross,’ I thought. I went back to my office and the receptionist rang to inform me my 1:30 appointment was in the lobby. Low and behold my 1:30 was the person from the bathroom. I met the candidate at the front and sure enough he reached out to shake my hand. I told him that I had arthritis, so I was unable to shake his hand.”

Even if (you think) nobody else is in the bathroom with you, wash your hands anyway. Even if you’re at home, and you’re certain nobody is there. You’ll get sick less often.

The Washington Post reported just the other day on research that found viruses can spread from a single doorknob to 40-60% of surfaces and people in a building in less than four hours. Ew. Wash your hands.

What I would also like to do here is use hand washing as an analogy for best behavior, which we should always display in and out of the restroom, and one way to ensure this is to assume we’re always being watched – which you are, sort of. You never know who might snap a secret picture of you not offering your seat to the old lady on the bus and post it to social media. (And, by the way, shame on you.)

As Thomas Jefferson once suggested, “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.”

While this is a worst case scenario, and I’m sure none of you would do something similar, consider the case of the customer who allegedly grabbed this New York waitress’s butt and wound up with his full name and place of work circulating on Facebook. If she is telling the truth, this is a man with both literally and metaphorically dirty hands.

Maybe he doesn’t care about the post. But maybe he does, and would have reconsidered the alleged ill-advised butt grab had he known to what it would lead.

Evidence suggests even the illusion of an audience is enough to change our behaviour, that many of us don’t make choices based on what the right thing to do is, we make them based on how they make us look, even to an imaginary pair of eyes. (I hate to think what that suggests about the actual personalities of the people on Big Brother or, say, America’s Next Top Model – you know, if that’s them on their best behaviour – but there you are.)

So, the advice I’m giving is, despite a seemingly endless stream of Twitter drivel advising you to “dance like no one is watching” (stop freaking telling me how to dance, dammit), if you want to be happier, healthier, better liked and more hireable, you should actually:

1. Always assume someone is watching and behave accordingly
2. Wash your hands