Office and work environments are often the place where people pick up all sorts of germs including coughs, colds and flu. Pressure of work and the reluctance to take time off mean that most people turn up for work even when suffering the first signs of a respiratory illness such as a sore throat and sneezing.

People with flu are infectious from one day before symptoms develop until up to 7 days after becoming sick. Unfortunately, germs survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. In that time, imagine how far those germs can spread, from touching and sneezing onto door handles, faucets, desktops and most certainly telephones and keyboards.

How Germ-Free is Your office?
The business supply company Staples Inc., recently undertook a survey of US office workers to find out how clean and germfree they thought their office was. The result was surprising. Almost all those surveyed were concerned about catching a virus at work and one third believed that the telephone and keyboard were the most likely places for harboring germs. However, less than 10% of the participants actually cleaned these items with a sanitizer. This is particularly concerning, as 90% of all respondents admitted eating meals at their desks.

How to Prevent the Spread of Colds and Flu in the Office
In a swab test using an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meter, Kimberley-Clark Professional swabbed nearly 5,000 surfaces in law firms, call centers and even health care companies. They found many surfaces with a reading of over 100 ATP which suggested the presence of adenosine triphosphate where yeast, mold, bacteria and viruses could thrive. They reported that 91% of sink faucets, 80% of microwave handles, 69% of keyboards, 53% of water fountain buttons and 51% of computer mice all needed disinfecting.

Preventative measures recommended for limiting the spread of coughs, cold and flu include frequent hand washing using soap, hot water and touch-free hand dryers. Those who are sick should work from home to limit the spread of viruses and hand sanitizer should be kept on hand in the washroom or on the end of the desk for frequent use.

Wiping down the desk, chair arms, door knobs, telephone and computer keyboard should also be part of a regular routine to stay healthy. Sanitizing wipes are readily available, easy to use and disposable, making this task a 30 second job yet providing invaluable protection from lingering bacteria and germs. Similar preventative care should be taken wherever you eat lunch as microwave doors and refrigerator handles are touched by everyone.

By following the above preventative measures, the Kimberley-Clark Professional Healthy Workplace Project concluded that rates of colds, flu and stomach illness in the office could be reduced by 80%, allowing everyone to enjoy a healthier working environment.