If you think Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs
is the only one who's exposed to filth on a daily basis, think again.
Germs abound in the average workplace, and often in places you wouldn't
Find out what you can do to steer clear of parasites, microbes
and bacteria lurking at your job.
First, a quiz: Where would you rather eat lunch?
- At your desk
- In a stall in the office lavatory
Toilet for two?
If you chose B, well, you're a little strange, aren't you? But,
seriously, studies have shown that work desks have way more germs on
them than office toilets do -- up to 400 times more germs!
It makes sense when you realize cleaning crews thoroughly
scrub restrooms on a daily basis, but generally don't like to touch
people's work spaces for fear of messing up papers or breaking personal
To keep your workspace clean, invest in disinfectant. Clean your
phone, keyboard, mouse and desk daily before going home. Also, keep
hand sanitizer handy.
A study by Dr. Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona
found that when office workers were told to clean their desks with
disinfecting wipes, bacterial levels were reduced by 99 percent.
Bacteria battle of the sexes
Now, let's see if you think germs play favorites when it comes to
the sexes: Where do more germs linger?
- Women's desks
- Men's desks
- Germs are equal opportunity contaminators
And the Germy Award goes to...
If you answered C, we appreciate your fair-mindedness, but wah-wah
-- wrong! So, obviously it's gotta be those "gross, dirty" men, right?
Believe it or not, it's the "fairer" sex whose desks crawl
with the most germs. (Note that we used parentheses so as not to be
accused of sexism.)
Lotions and candy and germs, oh my!
The reason women tend to have more bacteria on their workspaces is
they generally have more lotions, tissues and snack items around than
men do. All of these things are breeding grounds for microorganisms.
Women: Be careful with communal bowls of candy. It's nice to
share, but do you really want all those hands in your goodies? And if
you have a big bottle of hand lotion, be sure to include it in your
daily sanitizing routine.
What's worse than a woman's desk?
So, if a toilet seat has around 49 bacteria (according to Dr.
Gerba's study), and the average workplace has 21,000, can you guess how
many bacteria swarm the average elevator button?
Take the stairs
If you picked C, ding ding ding! Congratulations, you're getting the
hang of these quizzes. Elevators probably don't get cleaned all that
Think about it, cleaning the buttons means having to keep
going up and down to all the floors or listening to the clanging fire
alarm if you push the red "Stop" button. And that's just annoying.
Take the stairs. It's better for you anyway!
Water cooler vs. water fountain
Where would you rather put your lips?
- The water coming out of a fountain
- A cup filled at the water cooler
The winner is C: Your own water bottle
I know; we didn't give you that option. But if you have it, take it.
Amazingly, water fountains are actually less germ-ridden than office
water coolers, according to a study by the Food Network's Kitchen
Apparently, it has something to do with trajectory and used
cups and bottles, etc. In any case, there's more than just gossip being
spread at the water cooler, so beware.
Button, button, who touched the button?
Those of you who took the elevator quiz are already aware of the
potential for germs on buttons that are accessed by countless fingers.
(And if you think we mean your cashmere sweater, you might have other
Copiers, coffee machines and microwaves are all havens for
bacteria. Take a two-step approach to buttons: Clean them often and
wash your hands thoroughly after touching them.
Handle, handle, who touched the handle?
See previous slide and replace the word "button" with "handle." Well not
exactly, especially in the part about the sweater, but you get the
picture: Whether on doors, coffee pots, or toilets, handles harbor
Yogurt's not the only bacteria in the fridge
One of the biggest mysteries of the workplace: Why would someone
steal another person's lunch? Who knows what could be in it? But,
ballsy thieves aside, even the honest eaters in the office could be
getting more than they bargain for when they put their lunch in the
The fumes from a raunchy refrigerator in a San Jose, Calif.,
office recently sickened more than 30 employees. Ewww. Clean out the
fridge at least every two weeks.
Okay, let's review
What you can do: You now know that to avoid germs you should either
eat lunch in the loo or disinfect your desk daily.
Also, clean your hands often, especially after touching any
community objects. Use hand sanitizer or thoroughly wash with warm
water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
Initiate an office spring cleaning
What your workplace should do: If they do not already have
impeccable cleaning routines in place, it's time to suggest some
Plenty of hand sanitizer should be easily accessible by
everyone; refrigerators should be cleaned out and disinfected bi-weekly;
care should be taken to ensure all communal surfaces are regularly
cleaned; and employees should be given tips for avoiding germs in the
When all else fails
Okay, so you're surrounded by germs. They say exposure to some
bacteria is good for the immune system. So, if your workplace is yucky
and management doesn't care, you can hope that if it doesn't kill you,
it makes you stronger.
Otherwise, invest in a gas mask and ask for hazard pay.