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Is your office making you ill?

Published 5th July, 2017 by Neil Nixon

Is your office making you ill?

The workplace is ranked as one of the unhealthiest places you're likely to inhabit on a daily basis, and according to Dr Lisa Ackerley, hygiene expert and visiting professor at the University of Salford, the amount of sick days taken by office workers could be reduced if companies implement a better cleaning routine.

A study carried out by Dr Ackerley found that the main cause of germs at your desk is poor personal hygiene, with nearly 50% of office workers responding to a survey stating that they do not wash their hands after going to the toilet.

Your hands and the surfaces you touch, including your office chair, are germ motorways. Crumbs and spills encourage the growth of bacteria that can lead to stomach bugs, coughs, flu and even food poisoning. Bacteria and viruses that you bring back from the toilet multiply on the hard work surfaces of your desk and chair and remain infectious for 24 hours.

Common germs hiding at your workspace

There are a staggering 21,000 germs per square inch on your chair, desk and keyboard. In fact, the average office desk harbours 10 million bacteria. That’s 100 times more germs than a kitchen table and 400 times more than the average toilet seat. Common bacteria found in the office include:

• Pseudomonas aeruginosa - commonly found in man-made environments like the office and causes illnesses for those with weakened immune systems.

• Staphylococcus aureus - found in the office where there is contact with skin on items such as keyboards, chairs and door handles.

• Actinomycetales - found in water and can be transferred from one surface to another.

• Norovirus - commonly found in the office and transferred by food and water.

Given that many of us drink, snack or eat lunch at our desks, isn’t it time we took desk cleanliness more seriously? Yet only 20% of office staff clean their workspace before eating. Furthermore, chairs and fabrics are often overlooked in typical cleaning routines.

A stricter cleaning and hygiene policy that includes all work surfaces including chair plastics, metal and fabrics could help reduce unnecessary illnesses in the workplace, and improve the bottom line with less sick days being taken.

Gareth Jones, commercial manager at Kit Out My Office, a provider of office furniture online, said: “Keeping your workplace clean and tidy has many benefits, from simply looking visually impressive and professional to your customers through to the health benefits it can offer. We encourage all of our customers to clean their equipment by providing helpful guides on how and when to clean your new office furniture.”

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