Now that we’re more aware of the germs that are lurking around in the world because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we find the need to sanitise and clean our workspaces more often than ever. We often take spaces like our desks at work for granted, but little did we know that these spots inhibit bacteria and germs — a looming threat for us all. Here, we interviewed two experts to find out more about the dirtiest spots in the office and how we can keep our workspaces safe, clean, and hygienic.
A surface’s level of dirtiness depends on what it’s made of. “Porous surfaces, like foam grips and cloth seats hold the most bacteria between their tiny fibres and can collect microbes more efficiently than something solid like a metal pole,” says Dyson’s Senior Scientist, Dr. Salomé Giao.
However, bacteria and viruses are likelier to be transferred from the pole to the hand. If possible, eschew unnecessary contact with these surfaces and consider sitting where possible and of course, wear a mask.
It applies to door handles in the office, too, as well as security card readers, which are some of the high-touch areas, according to Johnson Chua, owner of professional disinfecting and cleaning company Dream Sparkle.
Busy building elevators see hundreds of people a day, who come into
come into contact with all kinds of bacteria every hour. We know, it’s not the easiest especially during peak hours, but it’s best to avoid crowded elevators.
“Even if the elevator is cleaned regularly, the potential for bacteria build-up is high, so remember not to touch your face until you are able to wash your hands properly,” recommends Dr. Giao.
Keyboards are notorious for harbouring bacteria, and often trap stuff like food crumbs, dried skin and sweat. The same goes for your phone and mouse. Keep antibacterial wipes at hand, and wipe your desk and its inhabitants on the regular.
Johnson shares, “Dust, dirt and residue on a surface can inactivate many disinfectants. Hence, physically wiping away surface contamination first with a detergent is required prior to sanitising with the authority stated active ingredients to be effective against viruses.”
While ‘hot desking’ has been an office trend in recent years, it’s not quite the best practice under current circumstances. With multiple people using the same surface throughout the day, it can become a hot bed for germs. Ideally, hot desking should be avoided, or the same person should remain there all day.
“Particularly if you’re hot desking, don’t forget to disinfect desks as well as chair levers and handles too. When working in a new space, we often use them to adjust our seating, but its commonly overlooked when cleaning,” highlights Dr. Giao.
How often have you or a colleague brought food to the office, stashed it in the common fridge and forgot about it? It’s a common occurrence, especially in larger offices.
This culminates in a pile of leftovers that get stale and mouldy. Bacteria can then spread quickly and affect other food like vegetables and fruits. Be a responsible co-worker and throw away any uneaten food that’s still in the fridge after a couple of days!
We’re all for reducing single-use plastics and going for eco-friendly options. And we hate to break it to you but that mug you’re drinking out of could potentially be filled with bacteria, too.
But exercise caution when you’re refilling reusable bottles and cups, and ensure that where you drink from does not touch the drink dispenser, as this could lead to cross-contamination.
Dr Giao recommends, “Clean your cup with hot water and soap regularly, as well as dry it thoroughly afterwards with a clean cloth. Avoid using kitchen towels which hang around the kitchen as they are often damp, which could re-contaminate the cup.”
Bacteria thrive in warm, damp conditions. With everyone in the office sharing the same towel or sponge, these can be breeding ground for bacteria. Particularly if these are left near a radiator, the towel becomes damp and warm, providing fertile ground for the proliferation of bacteria,” says Dr. Giao.
Use your own kitchen towel or sponge where possible and ensure it dries quickly. Hand sanitisers after a thorough hand washing routine is a good way to minimise further bacterial spread too, especially if the shared items aren’t changed often.
“Door handles, light switches and elevator buttons have become focus points of disinfection, particularly in the current climate,” notes Dr. Giao, “but there are other buttons that can be overlooked.”
Office washrooms can be very busy areas with great potential for cross-contamination, particularly where people may not wash their hands thoroughly. Not all hand dryers are touch-free and will require frequent cleaning. “Where possible switch to touch-free solutions, such as the Dyson Airblade which dry your hands with HEPA purified air rather than dirty washroom air,” she says.
This article was first published in Womn’s Weekley.