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Spread cheer - not germs - in the office this Christmas

11 December 2018

While Christmas is traditionally a time of joy, the combination of cold temperatures with a steady flurry of social events, can create the perfect environment for winter illnesses. Figures for 2017 show the average number of sick days taken has almost halved since 1993 in the UK, meaning many employees are choosing to ignore their sniffles in order to get to the office. This can create an environment for germs to spread, unless key hygiene steps are followed.

What’s brewing this Christmas? 

As temperatures plummet, employees will likely be making more trips to the kettle, but it’s these tea runs where germs could easily spread. Initial Washroom Hygiene’s survey of 1,000 office workers found that only 33% of people wash mugs before making a cup of tea for colleagues and 80% admitted they don’t wash their hands prior to preparing a brew. When we swabbed the boxes where office tea bags are kept we found extraordinarily high levels of bacteria – an average 17 times higher than the average toilet seat.

Encouraging more hygienic employee behaviour such as washing hands, cleaning mugs between tea rounds and wiping down tea-making equipment, can help overcome any potential contamination. Facilities managers should equip offices with soap and sanitisers as well as displaying helpful hand washing reminders around the office.

Guilt (and germ)-free indulgence 

Research has shown that most people eat their lunch at their desk at least three times a week, and at this time of year festive nibbles are almost certain to end up on employees’ desks. Handwashing before eating or snacking is vital, as 80% of all illnesses are transmitted by touch. Despite this, Initial research revealed that 74% of people don’t wash their hands before snacking. 

Deploying hand sanitisers throughout the office could help employees form a barrier against microbes and will also promote a more proactive approach to hand hygiene. 

Tricks of the trade

It’s the role of the office manager to ensure that regular office cleaning takes place and that a deep clean is undertaken (we would recommend twice yearly). Ensuring good quality infection control procedures are in place is worth investing time and money in, as it can help to prevent or reduce any illness amongst staff.

One secret weapon to quickly and effectively clean the office – is Ultra Low Volume (ULV) fogging. This technique is especially useful in the event of an outbreak as it enables the treatment of large areas in a short space of time by generating a mist formed of tiny droplets of disinfectant, measuring 5-50 microns in diameter. Carried out by trained specialists, ULV fogging significantly reduces the number of potentially harmful pathogens and ensures those hard-to-reach areas that manual cleaning might miss are treated. The fogging technique can also include a disinfectant with ‘Reactive Barrier Technology’ to keep areas sanitised for extended periods of time. Considering deep cleaning techniques like ULV fogging alongside routine cleaning procedures could be essential in keeping your office full of cheer and not germs this Christmas.

Final words

With a small investment, office managers can ensure they’re putting the needs of their employees first by tackling the spread of bacteria and viruses this festive season. Tackling these hygiene risks by employing the necessary tactics to prevent them will go a long way to ensuring a very Merry Christmas for everyone in the office! 


Jamie Woodhall, UK technical & innovation manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene
Paul Casson, technical field manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene