Germs are everywhere. That is a fact of life. If we were scared of every germ that existed, we would never leave our houses, living in constant fear of contracting some kind of terminal illness. There are things we can do, and should do, regularly however to help minimise our exposure to harmful nasties in our environments.
Offices are one of the most germ-infested spaces. While to the untrained eye, a neat and tidy office appears to be totally bacteria free, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. But why? The answer to this is simple, and involves a question – when was the last time you cleaned your desk phone? Your keyboard? Going broader, how about the photocopier, the printer or your own mobile phone? While these items seem so sweet and innocent, they nearly never get properly cleaned, making them a haven for germs.
Keyboards are reportedly one of the worst offenders. They are even worse for those who eat their lunch hunched over their desks. Month-old sandwich crumbs anyone? Luckily, this little fella is easy to clean. Start by tipping it upside down, letting the particles and dust fall on to the carpet. Next, disinfect the keys themselves with an alcoholic wipe or spray and wipe.
The desk is another common haven for bacteria. Again, this can be due to the fact that we often eat at our desks. It is also a very commonly touched office essential – we keep lots of things on it. As with the keyboard, clean, clean, clean – and often. Same goes for the board room table, except on a larger scale. Think of who has been touching that – and what those people have been touching – and you get the idea.
Possibly the biggest offender is the humble office phone. You pick that thing up hundreds of times per week. And what’s worst is that you hold it to your mouth. Yes, germs that are living, multiplying and growing on your phone are then exposed to one of the largest orifices in your body, giving them easy access to get right inside and do their nasty thing. I bet you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your phone. Even worse again is if you share a phone with a co-worker, where your germs are happily mingling together and hanging out.
A study from the University of Arizona found that there are more than 25,127 germs per square inch on the average office phone. Once again, the answer is simple – clean this baby – daily if you can, or at least weekly – and you’ll stop those germs in their tracks. This goes for your mobile phone too. University of London researchers found that mobile phones harbour all sorts of delightful goodies, including E. coli, faeces (!) and other harmful bacteria. As people don’t regularly clean their phones, these bacteria just continue to build up. On top of this, phones are often a warm object, which makes them a perfect breeding ground for germs.
Other offenders are office books, the lolly jar or biscuit tin, elevator buttons (who would ever clean these?!) and the communal kitchen. Think of how many times your colleagues leave old food in the fridge, letting it build up a nice layer of mould before someone finally has the gall to throw it out. Keep your food in airtight containers and always wash your hands after touching communal spaces.
Yes, we are constantly exposed to germs, but just be smart about it. Wash your hands frequently. Wipe down and disinfect your office equipment regularly, and be smart about food storage.