Battling Bugs In The Office? Send In The Cleaners

06 October of 2014

So times are tough. You’re thinking of making some cutbacks. What about getting the cleaning company to come in less often? It’s a hard decision but perhaps you can get the staff to tidy their own areas and hopefully no one will be aware the cleaner is coming in less.

Before you reach for the phone remember that as you pick it up, thousands of germs are transferring themselves to your hand. And from your hand to that of your next visitor, then to your coffee cup, keyboard, door handles – basically anything you come in contact with. It is a horrible thought but it is also reality. This is how germs spread.

A Shocking Fact

A study by the University of Arizona found that our office toilets are cleaner than our desks, which harbour nearly 400 times more microbes than the lavatory seat. Your phone is the main offender – up to 25,127 microbes per square inch can call it home. Your keyboard is next with 3,295 and your mouse 1,676. In contrast, the average toilet seat contains only 49 microbes per square inch. Not that we all need to become paranoid about the items in our office but we need to be aware of those areas that harbor germs.

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The researchers concluded that our work stations are among the filthiest things we come in contact with and that’s not even mentioning all the communal areas where germs can run amok, like the photo-copier, books and files, microwave and fax. They act as super-corridors for germ transfer, making your staff ill and reducing your productivity.

The Strength of the Virus

Cold and flu viruses can survive for 72 hours on our office surfaces and bacteria levels soar throughout the working day, reaching a peak just after lunch as microbes start to munch and multiply on those spilled crumbs and coffee stains.

And beware of presenteeism – when Bill or Gill is showing up for work looking like death warmed up but determined to impress you by coming in. They are walking incubators of germs that are just waiting to disembark and swarm aboard the rest of your staff. In a couple of days the office will look like the Marie Celeste as everyone succumbs to a virus that could have been contained if Bill or Gill had just stayed at home until they were better. By doing so it would have been a case of damage limitation.

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Introduce Good Clean Habits

We ourselves are the biggest communicators of germs so it is vital, as well as hiring a good cleaning organisation, to encourage good hygiene among your staff. This doesn’t mean spot-checking which deodorant they use or asking at interview how many times they shower. It means issuing them with anti-bacterial wipes and requiring that they wipe down their desks and equipment regularly, and putting up posters in the loos to show how to thoroughly clean hands. You could also issue hand-sanitizer and go for clear desks – i.e. limit the amount of personal stuff staff can have. All those photos, teddy-bears and knick-knacks may make them feel at home, but they’ll be making lots of microbes feel at home too.

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The same researchers from Arizona found that regular cleaning of office surfaces and equipment reduced the levels of germ infestation by 99%. This, instead of making our cleaning companies a drain on our already stretched resources, actually makes them the first line of defense in keeping our staff healthy, our environment hygienic and our business running smoothly. So the next time you think you can make savings by reducing the hours of your cleaning company think again. Those savings will not make up for the loss in productivity when the number of sick days starts to rise.

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