Keeping a Clean Office During Cold & Flu Season | 8 Tips

Office worker suffering from a coldWith cold and flu season just around the corner, this is the time of year when more and more people are beginning to call in sick. This influx of sick coworkers could be easily blamed on the changing weather, but the main culprit could be an unhealthy office.

If you’ve turned a door handle, touched your computer keyboard or used the break room microwave at work, chances are you’ve come into contact with more germs found on the average toilet seat. Some of the most germ-ridden places at the office are places you wouldn’t expect. So, for you vigilant germ-conscious workers, here are 8 tips for keeping your office clean during cold and flu season.

#1: Keep Your Desk Clean

Let’s face it, your desk can be nasty. Cleaning and disinfecting your desk regularly can make all the difference. Disinfecting wipes can be effective and keep your desk relatively germ-free if used regularly on your phone, the top of your desk and your computer keyboard. When cleaning your keyboard, turn it upside down over the garbage can while shaking and tapping it on the back to remove any crumbs that collect in between the keys during the day.

Your desk can also become littered with used tissues during cold and flu season. Remedy that by ditching the yucky tissues directly in the trash instead of putting them on your desk and contaminating the next person who comes by your cube.

#2: Don’t Eat at your Desk

We all do it. You’re probably doing it right now. About two thirds of office workers eat lunch at their desks. Though eating at your desk may show commitment and a quicker workday, computer keyboards used by workers who commonly eat at their desks typically show higher levels of bacterial contamination.

If you, like many of us, are guilty of this, you should make sure you clean your keyboard every few days. Doing so, will reduce the amount of harmful bacteria and take you one step closer to a cleaner, healthier work environment.

#3: Wash Those Hands!

For all of you “germ-conscious” workers, I’m sure a world without hand sanitizer is a world in which you don’t want to live. All you have to do is take out a little bottle of liquid and squeeze a bit into your hand and all of your worries are gone. It’s true that a good alcohol-based hand sanitizer can kill up to 99% of bacteria, but they are no substitution for good old soap and water.

Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy and does not remove all residue after eating. In fact, some residues tend to pick up more dirt, making your hands even dirtier than before. Thirty seconds of simple hand washing with soap and water can reduce the bacterial count on your hands significantly. Wet your hands with water, then apply the soap to your palms. Rub your hands together briskly for at least 15 seconds before rinsing.

#4: Regularly Disinfect Communal Areas

Viruses and respiratory bugs can scatter throughout a workplace in as few as four hours and lurk in the most unexpected places. Harmful bacteria thrive in refrigerators, microwaves, on faucet handles, water fountains, in dishwashers and on vending machine buttons. Cleaning frequently touched surfaces is one way to cut down on the number of cold and flu germs that are passed from one co-worker to another. The cleaning of shared items and can cut down on contamination.

#5: Have Carpets Cleaned Regularly

A dirty office equals sick employees. Pet dander, dirt, dust mites and allergens get trapped in carpets—a nightmare for coworkers prone to allergies or asthma. Other possible health concerns include respiratory problems, a weakened immune system, fatigue, dizziness and nausea—all of which are not conducive to a productive work environment.

Regular professional carpet cleaning kills bacteria and removes deeply trapped pollutants. Not only will cleaner carpets make your office more attractive, but will also produce better indoor air quality. Contact your Woodard Account Manager to set up a personalized carpet cleaning consultation.

#6: Avoid the Kitchen Sponge

Believe it or not, the shared office kitchen harvests the most harmful bacteria and the communal kitchen sponge is Ground Zero. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments. Though it may be difficult to stay out of your office kitchen, after lunch, skip the sponge. Rinse and wipe out your lunch container with a paper towel, and then clean it thoroughly at home. If tossing the sponge is not an option and you must use the shared sponge, squeeze as much water as possible out of it when you’re finished using it and apply bleach if possible.

#7: Sneeze Vampire-Style

Not only can viruses lurk on surfaces touched by an infected person, they also can hover in the air and despite your best efforts, you’ve contaminated others before you even know you’re sick.  An infected person can spread harmful viruses to others up to about 6 feet away. So, just as we teach our children, sneeze by covering your nose and mouth with the crook of your elbow, vampire-style.

#8: If you’re Sick, Stay Home

If you are like many workers today, waking up with body aches, a scratchy throat and a 101 temperature is usually followed with indecision about whether or not you should go into work. You begin to question if you should you drag yourself to work or phone in sick, even though your boss desperately needs you to pitch in during a stressful week. Dredging on may seem admirable, but staying home when you’re sick helps to curb germs in the office. So err on the side of caution and stay home.

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