Some contact with germs is inevitable, but most people don’t realize just how many germs can hide in a workplace environment. Your office may seem clean. Maybe the floors are swept, desks wiped down, bathrooms cleaned, and door handles disinfected. But germs often hide in unexpected places in your office.
Fact: 80% of infections spread via contact with contaminated surfaces (not coughing and sneezing).
In this post, I’ll explain some of the most germ-infested office items and places to avoid. The best and easiest way is to make sure your office has a top-notch janitorial service, but there are other things you can do on your own to keep yourself and your space clean and healthy.
Grab your hand sanitizer and get ready. Let’s get started.
What Are Germs, Anyway?
The technical definition of germs isn’t very specific. Basically, a germ is a very small living thing that causes disease. Fungi and viruses are types of germs, as are bacteria like E.coli.
Not all germs are bad. In fact, without certain healthy bacteria, our bodies couldn’t function. Unfortunately, not all the germs that hide in offices are healthy, and the bad ones are all mixed in with the harmless ones.
Here are a few places they tend to hide:
Did you know 1 in 5 office coffee mugs is tainted with fecal bacteria? When mugs don’t get thoroughly washed after every use, those bacteria can get passed on from person to person.
You might consider bringing your own designated mug and washing it every time you use it.
Statistically, your desk is probably dirtier than the office toilet — 400 times dirtier, to be exact. Your keyboard alone most likely harbors about 16 million microbes! Think about how often you…
- Eat at your desk
- Touch your desk after touching other potentially germ-infested items
- Clean your desk (including your keyboard and mouse)
It’s a good idea to wipe your desk down every day with a disinfecting wipe.
Photo: Martin Cathrae
Phones are even worse than desks. We’ve all heard how dirty our cellphones can get, but it turns out your office phone has the same problem.
Most office phones never (or very rarely) get cleaned, even though we touch them all the time. We handle them, press them up to our ears and hair, and even breathe on them. It’s even grosser if you’re not the only one that uses it.
Next time you wipe down your desk, don’t forget the phone.
The Water Cooler
Most people don’t imagine the water cooler getting dirty, but the truth is, most water cooler nozzles never get cleaned. Stationary water is a perfect breeding environment for germs, and they can live there for a long time.
Here’s the easiest way to clean the water cooler in your office.
The Copy Machine
If your office has a copy machine, it may be the single best place to share germs with everyone in your office.
Offices should keep hand sanitizer by the copy machine for employees to use when they’re done using it. If that’s not an option, try to wash your hands after you use the copy machine, or at least keep your own hand sanitizer at your desk.
PowerPoint Remotes and Other Shared Items
Conference rooms and everything in them tend to carry a lot of germs. Shared computers, PowerPoint remotes, and other communal items are likely to be harboring germs from throughout the office.
It’s a good idea to wipe these items down every day. If you can’t, then wash or sanitize your hands after using them.
Photo: Arlington County
How to Kill Office Germs Effectively
If you’re feeling grossed out — and maybe a little paranoid — I don’t blame you. Ease your mind by remembering that it’s impossible to avoid 100% of germs. All you can do is do your best to be sanitary and healthy at work.
Here are a few tips for avoiding germs in the office:
Wash your hands often, especially after using the restroom, after using communal items and spaces, before and after a meal, and every time you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose.
Carry hand sanitizer for those times you aren’t able to wash your hands.
Wipe down surfaces regularly with disinfecting wipes. You can also use a disinfecting spray, but don’t wipe it off. You need to let it dry for it to be effective.
Bring your own water bottle and mugs and wash them regularly.
Stay home from work if you’re sick. It’s almost impossible to avoid spreading germs, even if you try. Did you know that, on average, one person with a virus will infect 50% of all equipment and employees in their vicinity within 4 hours?
Avoid stair and escalator handrails if possible. You might be touching food, E.coli, urine, mucus, feces, or even blood, according to University of Arizona microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba.
Don’t bother with antibacterial soap. It’s not any more effective than regular soap. In fact, overuse of antibacterial products contributes to antibiotic resistance, which is a serious concern worldwide. Traditional soap will do the job just fine.
At Cascade Building Services, we use environmentally safe, eco-friendly cleaning products that are free from harmful odors and toxins. To learn more about how Cascade Building Services can help keep your office clean, safe, and healthy, contact us online or give us a call at (503) 850-0710.