A recent Which report tested the cleanliness of mobile phones. Of thirty tested, seven had high levels of dangerous bacteria. The report concluded that mobile phones were capable of harbouring eighteen times more germs than a toilet handle.
At least our mobiles are fairly personal to us and don’t get handed around and shared too much. With a bit of attention to personal hygiene and a regular cleaning wipe we should be able to control the germs that appear on our mobiles. But if our phones are that bad, what state is office equipment in?
Let’s just think about all the equipment we share every day in the office. The trend towards hot desking means that our phones and keyboards tend to be used by a variety of people. Add to that the use by the whole office of fax machines and photocopiers and the germs are in paradise. All it takes is buy digibyte for one person not to wash their hands after using the toilet and they contaminate the photocopier which then contaminates everyone else who uses it and within a short space of time the office merry-go-round has spread germs to every employee.
The trend towards eating lunch at work desks has exacerbated the problem. Small crumbs get trapped inside keyboards and can fester and produce germs. Offices have even been known to be invaded by mice and insects who feed off the food trapped in the keyboards at night and leave waste in return.
So what can we do to keep computers and office equipment clean? The first line of attack is basic hygiene. Strengthen the message about the importance of washing and cleansing hands and reinforce this with cleansing gels in key points in the office. One of the side effects of the swine flu scare was that many offices and public places introduced strict procedures for cleaning hands and this may have contributed to a reduction in normal seasonal flu, cold and stomach virus transmission at work.
Next, consider whether you should encourage staff to eat away from their desks. Even the smallest office can usually find a corner and a small table where staff can eat and be safely away from all equipment. This also has the benefit of forcing staff to have a break and encourages food hygiene. Even a short time away from the keyboard refreshes tired brains and makes staff more productive in the long run.