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The Germiest Places in Your Office

Do you wash your hands after using the restroom? What about after you make 50 copies of that report for your meeting starting in 10 minutes? If you’re like most people, habit dictates a good scrubbing after a toilet visit, but office supplies are usually considered safe enough.

Except the dirtiest places in your office aren’t always the usual suspects—and you need to make sure your cleaning company is finding them all.

Everyone knows office buildings – like any building with a concentrated amount of people in a small space – can be germy. One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is the one where Elaine is annoyed with the judgmental office germaphobe and proceeds to rub the woman’s keyboard on her backside, all while proclaiming, “You think I’ve got germs? I’ll give you some germs!”

Elaine wasn’t far off. In a study by Kimberly Clark Professional reported in Time, researchers swabbed nearly 5,000 surfaces in a variety of office buildings, and analyzed each swab with an ATP meter—a device that measures adenosine triphosphate, a molecule found in bacteria, mold and yeast cells. The more ATP, the higher the likelihood of germs. Some of the surfaces they found with consistently high counts were:

  1. Break room sink faucet handles
  2. Microwave door handles
  3. Keyboards
  4. Refrigerator door handles
  5. Water fountain buttons
  6. Vending machine buttons

What’s even scarier is when you do some comparisons! Another group did a similar test, gathering bacteria swabs from office buildings, and averaged the numbers: The copier start button had four times more bacteria than your pet’s food bowl, and the office coffee pot handle (how many times have you touched that already today?) contained 34 times more bacteria than a school toilet seat!

Fight back

Germs are indeed everywhere, and unless you want to live in a bubble, there’s no escaping exposure. But you can improve your office environment by partnering with a thorough cleaning company who pays particular attention to these common yet often overlooked bacterial breeding grounds.

Office workers can also do their part by keeping a few tips in mind:

Clean up your leftovers – As much as we know we should get out of the office for lunch, many of us eat at our desks or keep some snacks in our top drawer. Those accumulating crumbs and leftover food remnants are little germ hotels. Make sure you always clean up after eating and don’t forget about that old banana in the back of your desk!

Hands off your face – We touch our face an estimated 16 times every hour! And when you touch your face right after touching that dirty copier start button, for example, you’ve just given all of those bacteria and viruses a free direct flight into your body.

Watch out for dirty neighbors – Don’t be a germaphobe like Elaine’s co-worker, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of your co-workers’ hygiene habits, and take all appropriate steps to keep those germs out of your cubicle.

Offices may be full of sneezing receptionists, molding month-old Chinese food leftovers, and coughing co-workers, but with some basic precautions – and a janitorial team with the right expertise – you can enjoy a healthier (and happier) office environment.

Dave Harvey is the president and CEO of SG360, a facility services company specializing in janitorial, facilities management, restoration services, and inventory management. How are you keeping your dirty office supplies clean? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @ServiceGroup360.