As employees nervously contemplate returning to the office for at least part of the week, they might like to reflect that they could well be gaining a cleaner workplace and replacing one that was much dirtier than they realised.
Unless we have been scrupulously spraying, scrubbing and wiping our home work areas, and imposing our own “no food at the desk” policies, it seems many of us have spent the past 18 months working in thoroughly unsanitary conditions alongside myriad bacteria.
A tidy desk with minimal objects is easier to disinfect and less likely to harbour large microbial communities” –Dr Jonathan Cox, Aston University
A new study has found that there are three times more germs on a home office desk than a toilet seat – proof perhaps that we are far more laissez faire about our own dirt than other people’s.
The report, by internet service provider Fasthosts, suggests that a high proportion of us neglect to disinfect our home workplaces. Researchers swabbed various areas of the home set up such as the desk (often in the kitchen), the mouse, keyboard and screens and compared them with swab results from other areas of the house.
The results were analysed using relative light unit (RLU) measurements to represent the number of bacteria found.
They found that that a standard toilet seat has a score of 209 RLU but the home desk comes in at 606. This indicated that the home desk was far dirtier than the kitchen bin (392) or door mat (209). Slightly better news – yet still horrifying for many – was the finding that the keyboard had a marginally lower RLU than the kitchen bin and that the computer mouse was only marginally more dirty than a toilet seat.
The desk chair, rated at 310, was unfortunately far germier than a toilet seat – indicating that the appearance of cleanliness was somewhat deceptive for many of us.
Working from home and office environment
Dr Jonathan Cox, ,ecturer in microbiology at Aston University, hammers home the uncomfortable findings with clinical efficiency: “Germs like moist, high contact or nutrient rich surfaces. Moisture transferred from your fingertips onto your keyboard is sufficient to sustain a thriving ecosystem of microorganisms.”
Typing while eating crisps wasn’t a great look, according to Cox: “The bacteria found on desks lack the ability to attack us unless we inject them to our body, for example typing while eating crisps and not washing our hands regularly.”
He totally failed to echo the claim of the habitually unkempt that by maintaining vast numbers of bacteria we boost our immune system, by adding: “Bacterial transfer from us to our environment is inevitable, and therefore a tidy desk with minimal objects is easier to disinfect and less likely to harbour large microbial communities.”
Rubbing salt in the wounds, Cox adds: “Not washing your hands after using a toilet could result to the transfer of faecal coliforms to the keyboard we use whilst we eat in our desk.”
So, there will be no sandwiches in the office in the era of hot desking.
Commenting on the research, Michelle Stark, sales and marketing director at Fasthosts says: “We know the importance of cleaning your desk equipment is important now more than ever, to look after your equipment and most importantly your health – but it’s clear there is benefit in helping to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria developing.
”We would recommend that desk users practice good hygiene and clean your desk as regularly as possible.”