Tips for a Healthy Workplace

Healthy Hands

Does going to work make you sick? Office buildings are filled with surfaces and equipment that are shared by everyone, and bathrooms and kitchen areas in particular come to mind as an obvious breeding ground for a palette of germs.

If you thought office bathrooms and kitchens were unsanitary, the results of a recent University of Arizona study* will open your eyes to the germs lurking in other common office spaces.


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Would you believe that there are 400 times more germs present at a workplace desk than on the toilet seat in the bathroom down the hall? Stunningly, bacteria levels on fax machines were found to be three times higher than on the bathroom floor. Commonly touched surfaces, such as phones, computer keyboards, desktops and doorknobs enable cross-contamination -- the transfer of germs from one surface, food or person to another -- to occur. Pathogenic bacteria and viruses, like the common cold and the flu, can spread quickly from sick to healthy individuals via common contact surfaces.

Fast Fact: Colds and the flu alone account for about 20 million lost days at work, 148 million days of restricted activity and 46 million bed-ridden days, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Employers are increasingly concerned with the impact absenteeism has on productivity. As employers and employees grow more aware of the importance of hygiene in the workplace, office and building managers can implement the following tips to help provide a safe and healthier office environment.

  • Provide a cleaning toolkit for each floor including spray cleaner/disinfectant, paper towels, and tissues.
  • Establish an hourly maintenance tracking system for every restroom and kitchen area. Regularly replenish these areas with soap and disposable paper products.
  • Remind maintenance staff to wipe work surfaces with paper towels and disinfectant. Phones, keyboards, computer mouses, photocopiers and doorknobs are high contact areas and need to stay especially clean.

Healthful Hint: Paper is safer. Sponges and washcloths spread germs!

  • Post signage to encourage frequent and proper Hand Washing to avoid spreading germs, especially in restrooms and in areas where employees eat. Make sure to provide paper towels, preferably from a hands-free towel dispensing system to best diminish the spread of germs.
  • Encourage tenants to eat in designated eating or kitchen areas. If there is no designated dining space, provide paper towels, which can be used as placemats, for employees who choose to eat at their desks.
  • Eliminate office kitchen sponges, which can become a breeding ground for potential pathogens. For small clean-up jobs in office kitchens, such as washing personal eating plates or utensils, disposable paper towels can be used in place of sponges.

*Gerba, C. 2002. First In-Office Study Dishes The Dirt on Desks.

This article used courtesy of Georgia-Pacific