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Germ hot spots in the office

10 April 2015

Nobody likes being ill and even less so if you find yourself having to take time off work to recover. It is an essential part of getting better, however, as offices are veritable cesspools of germ sharing and you could be making both yourself and your colleagues even more sick if you refuse to accept defeat!

While something as common as a cold or a sore throat may not seem so serious to you, you are putting your whole office and their families at risk by attending when you should be at home recuperating. 

It is important to remember that some colleagues have families with elderly relatives or small children that are more susceptible to coughs and colds and can get seriously ill if they catch it. Unless you want to be responsible for a child’s illness, it is better to keep yourself away from the office environment. However sometimes it can be too late even for that, as there are a number of office areas that can encourage the breeding of germs, many of which we often take for granted. 

We’ll have a look at some of the ‘hot spots’ for germs located in an office environment, and the best ways in which you can ensure a clean and hygienic environment for everyone involved. 

Kitchen sponge
If your office has a communal kitchen (and what office doesn’t?) you will often find a small array of cleaning utensils to help you wash and dry your dishes, complete with whatever scented liquid soap your boss has bought this week. Although these facilities are great, sometimes it would be good for you to consider how long that kitchen sponge has been cleaning the dishes for. A week? Two weeks? A month?

We are normally so preoccupied with cleaning the dishes as fast as possible that we forget about what we use to clean them. How often do you consider washing your hands once more after handling the kitchen sponge? Think of all the strange meats, sauces, vegetables and everything else the sponge has mopped up and wiped, not to mention the sink bowl on occasion. It is a little nauseating.

Lift buttons
All it takes is the push of a button. You may not give much thought to this tiny action that could have big consequences on the rest of your day, but if you happen to share an office with several other companies or even if you work in a large company or office, you are taking quite a risk. It is entirely possible that the very lift button you have just depressed with your newly sanitised hands has also been pressed, prodded and nudged by hundreds of other fingers; and there is no telling where they have been!

People can be very lax when it comes to washing their hands, so it is important to be extra vigilant if you don’t want to be caught out, particularly during the winter or if there are rumours of an illness going around. Use the corner of your sleeve or keep some anti-bacterial gel to hand.

Door handles
The very same principle applies to door handles. People spend very little time using them yet they can be one of the worst places for breeding bad germs and bacteria. Be particularly wary of kitchen doors and doors to the toilets. While it is considered plain polite etiquette to wash your hands after a visit to the facilities, and while many of us profess to having been taught this at a young age, you’d be surprised at how many people seem to skip this step after flushing the loo.

Keyboard (and phone keyboard)
If you do not share workspaces then keyboards will be slightly less of a germ hot spot but still a hot spot. Keyboards are big perpetrators for breeding germs as they often appear quite clean, but grease from your fingers will rub off, including what you may have eaten, touched or accidentally brushed against that day. A strong disinfectant spray and a good clean out of the space beneath your keys is important every few weeks, as even dust and food residue can build up if you’re not careful.

Phone keys and the phone handle is also a good breeding spot for germs as they are much more universal and you will often think nothing of allowing your colleague to borrow your phone for a conference call or two. Hair can be an incredibly dirty part of the human body and while you would expect good hygiene in colleagues the truth is this isn’t always the case. Wipe down your phone after each use, especially the receiver and the keys, to prevent a build up of nasty germs.

In many cases these germ hot spots can be kept clean with a simple hand sanitiser or a weekly clean with disinfectant spray will be enough to kill off any breeding germs, however it is important to be aware of your own mess, and to take responsibility for any leftover food or drink that has been left in the fridge for a suspiciously long time. 

Cohabitation is important in any environment, so it is important to work with your colleagues to keep the office environment clean and minimize instances of illness.