When one person in the office gets a cold or a stomach bug it feels inevitable that anyone sitting within close proximity will also get ill. Research from SCA suggest that one in 10 workers believe their health has been compromised by poor workplace hygiene.
Just under half of those surveyed believe they have passed on an
illness contracted at work to another member of their family. But
offices don't need to be cold and flu hotbeds. The answer to fewer colds is rather simple and relies on pure common sense.
Professor Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine reveals the office hygiene habits making us ill and what to do about it…
Mistake 1: Not thinking outside the box (read: office)
It might seem like bugs are spread in the office, but the problem doesn't necessarily start there. Professor Bloomfield explains:
get in to the office, people are regularly travelling on crowded public
transport, where they're sharing surfaces - or breathing in the same
air. The sheer volume of people coming in close contact with each other
allows for easier spread."
Boost your hygiene: "We
tend to get the office and our hands don't look dirty, but they could
be. If you come in from the outside, wash or sanitise your hands."
can't rely on other people in the office to practice good hygiene. For
the most part, practicing good, sensible personal hygiene at work should prevent you from getting sick – and others as a result. Professor Bloomfield says:
understanding that it's anything to do with you is the biggest mistake
you can make when it comes to office hygiene. The germs got on to
surfaces somehow, so it's about taking responsibility."
Boost your hygiene:
"As an individual you can stop germs spreading by being hygienic in the
times and places that matter. Practice good respiratory hygiene (catch
it, bin it, kill it), making sure hankies or tissues aren't around for
anyone else to pick up and then immediately wash your hands. Practice
good toilet hygiene and wash hands thoroughly. Ensure surfaces are kept
clean. But most of all, be aware when you're infected. If you've got to
come in to the office and you have a cold take responsibility about what
Mistake 3: Underestimating how resilient viruses are
Viruses and germs
are like the Bear Grylls of the office and have developed strategies of
how to easily survive in the workplace environment. Professor
"Viruses can use
all different ways to get from one person to another. We're talking
about very small numbers, particularly with the norovirus. When we vomit
we can vomit something of the order of a thousand million particles,
and as little as 10 can infect us."
Boost your hygiene: "If you've had the norovirus,
you might feel perfectly well but studies have shown people could be
excreting the virus in their faeces for up to 2 weeks after. So if
you've been infected, be very rigorous with hand hygiene around going to
the toilet for at least two weeks after."
Mistake 4: Not spending enough on good hygiene practice
same SCA survey revealed that 40% of respondents reported taking up to a
week off work because of poor hygiene levels in the workplace.
Professor Bloomfield says:
makes financial sense to make things like hand santiser readily
available, particularly in the winter months when bugs are floating
Boost your hygiene:
"Office managers should make sure the toilets are pleasant places to
use and fully equipped to facilitate good hygiene and handwashing and
that hand santiser is available. Having a bottle of hand sanitiser on
your desk acts as a prompt. Plus ensuring cleaners take all hand
surfaces seriously, not just wiping them but disinfecting them."
Mistake 5: Not paying attention to the right surfaces
an antibacterial wipe to your keyboard or mouse won't do any harm, but
it won't necessarily stop you getting ill. Professor Bloomfield says:
think about 'Where do germs lurk?' as it's obvious. People worry about
keyboards, but if you're the only one that's been using it, there
shouldn't be a problem. Viruses do not grow in the environment they only
grow in living cells, and use our environment to get from one person to
another via hands and surfaces."
Boost your hygiene: "If
it's a door handle, a tap handle, the buttons on a photocopier. It's
the contact surfaces that we share with the rest of the office."