Good hygiene

Sharing isn’t caring when it comes to colleagues’ germs

Posted on: September 1st 2017    •    Posted in: PC Cleaning

Around 140 million working days are lost to sickness absence across the UK each year, with colds, flu and gastric illnesses topping the table of causes. Much of the time people are contagious before they have any symptoms, unintentionally spreading the illness further. And this is exacerbated by the trend of ‘presenteeism’ when people come to work despite being unwell. Whilst they might think they deserve recognition for soldiering on, they are less productive and risk infecting yet more colleagues.

Most people are polite enough to use tissues to catch sneezes and cover their mouths when they cough. You’d like to think they also dispose of those tissues immediately and wash their hands thoroughly. Especially after visiting the bathroom.

Unfortunately, many studies show that this may not be the case. Contaminated surfaces are understood to be a major factor in the spread of common minor illnesses. And office environments are full of items that are ripe for contamination. Personal desk spaces, phones and keyboards have been found to harbour high levels of bacteria. And communal items, such as photocopiers and audio-visual devices and speakerphones in conference suites are even worse.

It all adds up to a highly contagious work environment. And at certain times of the year this can be a major factor in the spread of illnesses such as the notorious ‘winter vomiting bug’. Nobody wants to share that with their colleagues. So here are our top tips for breaking the cycle and reducing the spread of minor illnesses in the workplace.

  1. Actively encourage good personal hygiene – put up posters reminding people to wash their hands after visiting the bathroom and before preparing food and drinks. They don’t need to be authoritarian or preachy, a gentle reminder will do, or even something humorous if it suits your workplace culture.
  2. Provide hand sanitiser alongside communal equipment – photocopiers and conference room technologies are renowned for harbouring high levels of bacteria. Colds and gastric illnesses can spread like wildfire via these devices.
  3. Encourage a daily wipe-down of desks – equip each workstation with a packet of disinfectant wipes that are suitable for use on electronic devices. If employees start the day with a quick wipe of their keyboard, desk and phone it can significantly reduce the level of bacteria present.
  4. Stamp out ‘presenteeism’ – send people home if they’re unwell. Many people try to continue working when they have a cold or gastric illness to avoid letting the team down. But while it shows a good work ethic, it is misguided. People who are under the weather are less productive, more likely to make mistakes and highly likely to spread their illness to the rest of the team.
  5. Employ dedicated tech cleaners – contaminated surfaces can harbour illness-inducing bacteria for several months. Germy hotspots include personal and communal devices such as laptops, tablets, keyboards and phones. However, professional tech cleaners can make a measurable impact on workplace hygiene using specially designed processes and cleaning products.

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