Poor office hygiene means that the dirtiest parts of your office are lurking right beneath your nose and may be causing you to get sick.

While you wouldn’t eat off your workplace’s toilet seat, research shows that the work desk you’ll happily eat from has 400 times more bacteria! Thanks to this snacking, along with coughing, sneezing, and simply touching, our desks are plagued with germs, with the potential to cause harm to you and your colleagues. You spend a large chunk of your day at your desk, so office hygiene affects you directly.

Down and Dirty

While the usual suspects: bathroom, elevator buttons and refrigerator, are obvious havens for disgusting germs, it turns out that some of the dirtiest parts of the office are in your immediate workspace. Your desktop, keyboard, mouse, phone and chair are rife with germs from the constant contact you have with them. Even a tidy desk can be completely unsanitary. In the increasingly popular open plan offices and shared workstations, each user contributes to the bacterial cocktail. And since many office cleaners aren’t even contracted to wipe down desktops now, the dirtiest parts of your workplace are left completely untouched.

Is Your Phone Bugged?
Leading the pack as the most contaminated item on your desktop is your telephone with 25,127 microbes per square inch. As something that you are constantly touching with your hand and face while breathing your moist, warm, bacteria-rich breath into, this only makes sense.

The Grime Scene?
However researchers were surprised to find that office chairs were almost as bacteria-laden as telephones. Not so surprising was the bacterial contamination of keyboards and computer mice, with their frequent use and position in the spray zone for our coughs, sneezes and even lunch crumbs. Beneath them, your desk is the final frontier, gathering all the bacteria, viruses and food into an environment 100 times more contaminated than the communal work kitchen table you should be dining at.

Risky Business?
All this filth is a workplace health hazard. 80% of infections are transmitted via contaminated surfaces, not airborne particles, with some of the more dangerous germs able to survive and multiply for days or even months on hard surfaces, putting you at risk of illness. Australian businesses are suffering as a result, with office workers taking 1.6 sick days a year due to poor hygiene alone. That equates to a whopping $5.4 billion in lost earnings. The problem for businesses isn’t just a matter of money. Recent research suggests that a dirty workplace fosters feelings of disgust in employees that lead them to lie, cheat and steal. The same research demonstrated that cleanliness can reestablish ethical and cooperative behavior.

Simple Solution?
The solution is simple. Maintaining your own workspace is the key to your physical and mental workplace health. Spending a small amount of time at the start of each day using an antibacterial wipe to clean down your phone, mouse, keyboard, desk and chair will vastly reduce the bacterial build up. In one study the improvement was a drastic 99.9% less bacteria within just 2 days. Choose antibacterial wipes and air dusters over sprays or paper towel as sprays can introduce moisture into delicate electronics and paper towel will only spread bacteria around the surfaces rather than removing or killing it. Keeping hand sanitiser at your desk and avoiding having food there are also great ways you can protect yourself against the office lurgies.

It’s time you took control of your own health and wellbeing at work by implementing a simple daily cleaning routine. You will reduce your risk of illness and improve office hygiene.