Have you ever had a sneaking suspicion that working is bad for health? It turns out you could be right. Many of the surfaces in our workplace harbor more bacteria than a toilet seat.
Top of the list of germ hotspots in offices are desktop phones, which microbiologists at the University of Arizona discovered were home to a hair-raising 25,000 germs per square inch. As a point of reference, a toilet seat is likely to have around 50 germs per square inch.
Coming in a close second are desktops, followed by computer mice and keyboards. But the bacteria bonanza doesn’t end there. Frequently touched surfaces including microwave and fridge doors and taps in shared workplace kitchens too, not to mention water cooler controls, are also magnets for viruses and bacteria.
Are we really making it worse?
It seems that changing our working habits may be increased exposure to potentially harmful germs in the workplace.
Hot-desking, where your workers share desk space or work at a different workstation each of day, is increasingly common. But shared desks have more germs on them than desks used by just one person. And a shared computer mouse harbors 50% more germs than a mouse with just one careful owner.
Eating lunch at your desk never sounded less appealing. But this is something that more than two-thirds of USA office workers say they do. If you count yourself among those who eat at their desks, you could be ingesting more than you bargained for, if bacteria and viruses hitch a ride on your sandwich.
So how can you protect yourself
Many of us don’t have a say if we have our own desks in our office, and maybe we don’t have the time or facilities to grab a bite to eat somewhere other than at our desks. But there is still plenty of you can do to protect yourself from workplace bugs.
Here are our top tips.
• Wipe down your workstation with an antibacterial wipe at the start and end of each day. Don’t forget to wipe down the receiver, cradle, and buttons on your desktop phone, too. Research shows that regularly disinfecting surfaces and often-touched objects significantly reduce the number of germs that could potentially make you ill.
• Keep an antibacterial hand gel on your desk or in your bag. Use it after you make a cup of coffee in the office kitchen, or get a drink from the water cooler. If you can’t avoid eating at your desk use it before you eat, if you haven’t washed your hands first.
• Clean your keyboard and mouse regularly if you have your own desk, especially if you do tend to snack as you work. A compressed air spray costs just a couple of dollars and will help dislodge crumbs, fluff, and dust from between the keys of your keyboard. Follow up by wiping the keys with an alcohol wipe. Wipe down the mouse, too, while you’re at it.
• Don’t share mugs! Unless your office kitchen has a dishwasher to clean cups hygienically, you’re better off having your own mug and taking it home with you to wash at the end of each day. Many studies show that dishcloths and sponges are a breeding ground for bacteria – not what you want with your morning brew.
Adhering to these tips will help you to a clean, and much less germ filled work space!