Most people’s work station looks similar- a monitor, keyboard, mouse, telephone, piles, of paper, perhaps a few pens and some post-its. Probably yours looks as clean too. But, no matter how tidy your desk appears, millions of microscopic bacteria and viruses may be lurking just below the surface.
In fact, you will be surprised or rather shocked to know that an average office has hundred times more bacteria than a toilet seat. The “OK” button on your office’s Photostat machine is probably an absolute bomb of vile bacteria, which can cause nausea.
And, surprise, surprise! Women spread more germs in the workplace than men. But, before women take offence, it must be noted that they have a healthier diet compared with men. These are the findings of America’s leading expert on work and home hygiene, Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona.
Gerba found that women tend to store healthy, bio-degradable foods on their desk like apples and bananas, while men choose less nutritious options such as junk food, gum or potato chips which are less germ-ridden.
In fact, during the summer months, air conditioning and ventilation shafts in offices become a good breeding ground for bacteria; the bacteria then tend to spread to other parts of the office as well. So, you must be extra careful about avoiding these germs and infections caused by them. Keep these expert tips handy:
Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and under running water; this is far better than a quick spurt of hand sanitizer, according to Dean Cliver, a professor of food safety at the University of California.
Cliver added that a scrub with soap is much better than many hand sanitizers, though, the latter boasts of anti-microbial properties. This is because when your rinse after soaping your hands, the water reaches much deeper, removing food debris and other particles from where hand sanitizers can’t reach.
Elizabeth Scott, a professor at the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Boston, says that an office worker touch their face an average of 18 times an hour. These three and a half minutes work as the best transportation times for bacteria and viruses because when we touch our face, all the collected filth from our keyboard, desktop, or phones reaches right to our respiratory and digestive systems.
You must wash your hands regularly and use a sanitizer in addition, especially after you shake hands with a colleague who has a cold or another illness.
"As soon as I see someone come into my office that I think is sick, I immediately grab the sanitizer. You can shake hands at business meetings and still protect yourself," she said.
Does your office neighbour like to mount piles of paper, uneaten food, and sports socks on his/her desk? Well, those bacteria will multiply and crawl over to your cubicle as well. And, however pristine your cubicle may be, you are quite likely to develop infections.
Gerba's research found that two adjacent offices at one company had the biggest yeast contamination of dozens of offices sampled. The contamination simply spread from one to the other.
Especially your keyboard, which if you will shake, you could find bits of bread particles and other food bites lodged between the keys, if you will shake it. Your office boy might not be cleaning your keyboard and monitors for the risk of causing any damage; hygiene is left up to you and you don’t bother.
Simply blowing compressed air will not remove bacteria clinging to the surface of your keyboard; Gerba recommends an alcohol-based sanitizer for cleaning it.
Buttons like “enter,” “send,” “copy” and “OK” on fax, Photostat, and scan machines are the places of highest concentrations of harmful microbes, found Gerba’s research. Accordingly, lesser used keys were significantly less contaminated. Handles of restroom doors were other commonly used surfaces which were highly contaminated.
Reading about this gunk of germs found everywhere in your office, you must be thinking to work from home and dodge these microbes but you are in for another shock- home office have much higher levels of contaminations. The reason? You are less likely to separate your private life and your children can be a major source of contamination, says Gerba. Also, you could do things at home that you will never dare to attempt in your corporate office, such as put your feet on the desk.
The only way to keep workplace sickness at bay and reduce employee downtime is to undertake a thorough deep clean on a regular basis.
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