It is believed that 25% of the labour force in the UK works in an office environment. Unfortunately an office that is not regularly cleaned can be an unhealthy place to work. There are communal places in an office that can get dirty if not cleaned regularly and these will be obvious to most people – toilets, water cooler or coffee cart area, for example. However, there are other places which perhaps you haven’t considered. And these may even be dirtier!
In recent years several Universities and Hospitals have carried out research into this topic and have found proof of just how dirty offices can be. Researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Arizona found that work spaces used by men are dirtier than those used by women and that over 500 types of bacteria can be found in a typical office. But don’t panic only some of the bacteria can cause us to become ill.
Most researchers have found that the dirtiest place in the office are the sink handles so make sure you wash your hands well with soap and that they are cleaned often.
According to some studies, your computer keyboard is even dirtier than a toilet seat! On the actual keys as well as inside the keyboard lurks millions of bacteria and viruses as wells as hair and dead skin. The actual figures vary depending on the research you read, however they all state that a toilet seat has around 49 germs per square inch and a keyboard has thousands. These can lead to lots of ailments including diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach bugs, and food poisoning. Having staff absent due to these illnesses means a loss of productivity.
How did it get so dirty?
- Usually, the keyboard is dirty because people eat their lunch at their desk. This leads to crumbs and grease being left or dropped onto the keyboard. This is ideal for bugs, mould and germs to grow.
- Not washing hands after visiting the toilet. Bacteria and viruses are then transferred onto the keyboard.
- Sneezing and coughing over the keyboard.
- Mice! Mice scurry about at night looking for food and find the crumbs dropped on your keyboard. So they do clean up after you but they also leave their droppings which greatly adds to the bacteria on your keyboard.
How to clean a keyboard?
- Turn off your computer and turn your keyboard upside down and shake out the crumbs. Use a soft paintbrush to sweep out crumbs between the keys.
- Use damp wipes to clean the surfaces of the keys.
- Use a damp cotton bud to get between and around the keys.
- Use a folded post-it note and push the sticky end into the gaps.
- Get it professionally cleaned!
The office carpet is well trodden and since you don’t remove your shoes at work, dirt will be being dragged onto it every day. While it’s true that you also don’t lie about on top of it as you might do at home, germs can still be a problem. It is believed that an average carpet harbours 200,000 bacteria per square inch. There are lots of nasty germs living on carpets including the Norovirus and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). These can cause severe illnesses and can lead to staff absences.
Regularly vacuuming will help and a regular office cleaner will do that. But carpet cleaning should be undertaken at least once a year and can make a huge difference to the overall appearance of the office as well as keeping it hygienic.
Lots of different people press that same button every day and if some haven’t washed their hands then germs can be passed onto everyone.
Fridge and Microwave Doors
A nice addition to your lunch could be the germs which are found on these handles! You may wash your hands before preparing your lunch in the office- but other people may not have.
Vending Machine Buttons
Next time you feel peckish in the afternoon and head to the vending machine for a bar of chocolate, remember that the buttons on these machines often carry lots of bacteria.
Mobile phones are one of the dirtiest pieces of office equipment that you can use. Phones harbour germs because they are rarely cleaned. People also take them into the toilet and use them there.
Whilst some of these issues are definitely down to personal hygiene, others can be remedied by having a regular clean of the office. If you want to reduce the chances of your staff being absent through illness it might be worth investing in a cleaner. When did you last clean your office properly? The cost of using a commercial cleaner will outweigh the cost to your business of important staff being off sick too often. Healthy, happy staff are always more productive.