You may be enjoying your healthy, productive day at work, but do you realise the amount of germs that could be rite next to you!
Have you ever notice how easy it is to pick up germs in your office? Whether they are brought in from home or piblic transport, work is a great place for sharing bacteria and viruses!
Germs spread quickly from one person to another, from stomach churning food poisoning bacteria to viruses like colds and flu. Micro organisms like these do not really multiply on your desk or chair without help. They do not move around unless we do. So, we are all responsible for transferring germs from one person to the next.
To fight back, beat the germs and take control of your health in the workplace, you need to be aware of the most touched ares in the office!
The Desk of Doom!
Did you know that some typical desk items could be around seven times more contaminated than traditionally “dirty” items such as toilet seats, which often get more attention for cleaning! So, if you share desk equipment, you will have more chances of being infected by other people’s germs.
No need to panic, you won’t die. but you really should think about how dirty your hands may be after picking up the office phone or if you chew pens, many of us have done it, just think of where they have been before!
The Filthy Fridge!
You could easily pick up bacteria or viruses from touching fridges after colleagues have put their germs on them, but there are also dangers in keeping food past its used-by-date, especially in a fridge that does not work very well!
Take particular care over ready-to-eat foods such as sanwhiches or salads. Make sure you eat them in date or throw them away and store below 5°C.
Do you keep your food shopping in the fridge before going home? Take into consideration that raw meat and vegetables can be contaminated with bacteria and these can be found on the outer packaging!
Respect other people’s food left in the fridge and make sure you do not put the ready-to-eat food at risk of contamination by putting raw meat next to their sandwhich.
The Killer Keyboard and The Monstrous Mouse!
A study recently found more than 3,000 micro-organisms per square inch on keyboards and over 1,600 bacteria per square inch on a computer mouse. You might not worry so much if these are your own bacteria, but if you are desk sharing or have people use your computer frequently, the other people’s germs could be transferring onto your hands.
The Mouldy Mug!
Office mugs can look unsavory very quickly, especially if you do not have a dishwasher. Oh, and how about that mould growing on the coffee dregs in a long abandond mug? Simple rinsing will not remove a colleague’s germs. Also the outside of the mug could be contaminated by their hands. If they have a cold, you could get it too!
The Dirty Door Handle From Hell!
Door handles are one of the most touched spots in the office and a major spreader of viruses like the norovirus.
The norovirus or winter vomiting bug causes most gastrointestinal illness in the UK and spreads rapidly. If you want to avoid it, stay well back when someone vomits. The particles in the vomit are shed much like a sneeze and can travel as far as 10ft to the front and 7ft to the side. They can be spread either directly onto bystanders (worst case scenario into your face and mouth) or onto surfaces where the particles can be picked up on hands.
Eat at your desk and those particles could easily transfer into your mouth. Norovirus and other viruses and bacteria can also be found in faeces (poo). They can be transferred to surfaces around the office if someone doesn’t wash their hands after going to the loo. And that is more common than you might think. A study by commercial hygiene service provider Rentokil Initial, found that 25% of office workers do not wash their hands after using the toilet.
Another survey of 100,000 office workers in Europe reportedly found that 40% of women and 62% of men did not wash their hands after visiting the loo. Click here to read more!
The Fatal Photocopier!
Everyone uses the buttons of the photocopier, literally, everyone! So you can pick up whatever germs are on their hands, meaning that a cold or flu virus can easily be transferred from your hands to your eyes!
- If you are hot-desking and using a phone that others have used, have a pack of antimicrobial wipes handy to banish bacteria and cold and flu viruses. Time taken to clean your phone could mean fewer days off work.
- If you are eating at your desk, wash your hands before touching food or use a hand sanitiser.
- Move the keyboard away so it does not collect crumbs.
- Use anti-microbial hand gel if you can not be sure your hands are clean when using the phone.
- Bin your packaging rather than leaving it on the desk. Leaving food or mess around could encourage pests – another source of germs!
- Pen-chewers – try to break the habit. If you do not know where a pen has been, you could be ingesting bacteria or viruses left by someone else. It could have been in someone else’s mouth, gathering dust under the desk or dropped on the loo floor.
- Give borrowed pens a clean with an anti-bacterial wipe.
- If you share a work fridge, ask for a thermometer – they are very cheap (less than £5), and you can buy them from any supermarket. Check the temperature.
- Remove any out-of-date food (before it walks out on its own)!
- Start a policy to clear the fridge out at the end of the week and clean it.
- Protect your own food by placing it in plastic lidded containers.
- Keep ready-to-eat foods at the top of the fridge away from raw foods. Once you have opened a pack it will go off quicker than its original use-by date – follow the instructions on the pack.
- Use the office dishwasher if you have one. If not, use your own mug.
- Wash up your dedicated work mug in the evening.
- Leave it on your desk ready for your use only the next day (do not share it).
- Get a mug and bottle for hot drinks on the go, with smooth surfaces so they are easy to wash (preferably in the dishwasher).
- Wash bottles at least once a day because water is not sterile, and bacteria will build up over time. Do not let anyone else use them.
- Remember, bacteria or viruses are not the biggest hazard. Contamination happens when bacteria is transferred from one person to a touchpoint surface like a door handle and on to another person.
- Always wash your hands after using the toilet and try not to touch the door handle.
- Use some tissue, your elbows or your hand within a sleeve to open the door.
- Before getting back to work, use anti-bacterial gel – especially if you are about to eat.
- Do not eat a sandwich or rub your eye after using the photocopier or other shared office machinery.
- The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to wash your hands before eating.
- Use a sanitiser gel at your desk.
- The cleaners should be disinfecting hand-contact surfaces every evening.
If everyone works a bit harder to make their hands cleaner, the office will be a healthier place.
Spread The News! Not the Germs!
Working attitudes do not make it easy to keep at bay. A recent survey found that around 50% of UK workers would still go to work with a stomach bug, while 55% said they would go to work even with the flu!
If you go into work sick, It increases the chances of others getting an illness. Although it is not a foregone conclusion they will be ill. Keep the office spotless, use anti-microbial wipes, wash your hands and eat somewhere other than your desk!