How clean is your desk? Office hygiene uncovered

4 min read  |   19 March, 2019   By Rachael Down

A man is sat at a white desk and eating a salad whilst typing on keyboard. On his desk he has his notebook, a clipboard, his phone, a coffee cup, and a white tablet.

Warning: This post is not for the faint-hearted. You'll be eating your lunch away from the desk from now on. Anti-bacterial wipes at the ready...

Did you know that an average office desk harbours 400-times more germs than your toilet seat? Us neither. As spring is just around the corner, we thought it apt to take a look into spring cleaning and office hygiene.

We'll dust off the germ-problem areas, explain how to tackle employee hygiene and sprinkle some top tips to help you and your team get ship-shape and shiny. Tidy office, tidy mind. 

Let's roll up the rubber gloves and get to work.

ECO keyboard, Green recycling concept-min

Why you need to clean your desk

And by desk, we mean the whole office. Dishing the dirt on the horrors of UK office cleanliness, a recent report reveals some stomach-turning stats. Brace yourselves:

  • Dirty desks put two thirds of office workers at risk of sickness.
  • Ignoring the mess and foregoing a cleaning regime encourages nasties such as Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, E-coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa to breed. 
  • There are over 20,961 germs - on average - at each desk per square inch.
  • Each keyboard houses over 3,295 germs.
  • 1,676 germs fester on a desk-top mouse.
  • Over 25,127 germs are found on a standard office phone.

A staff survey by uncovered that two-thirds of employees failed to follow their office-hygiene guidelines and one in 10 will never clean their desk. What? You mean your office doesn't have Hygiene Guidelines? No problem. Feel free to reuse ours.

Office Hygiene Guide

Keep those bugs at bay and encourage clean-working habits:

  • One-minute-rule. Set a timer to one minute and focus on one cleaning task. For example, tidy up paper work. By starting small and setting a time-limit that's achievable, you'll sweep through this mini-clean-goal with ease and are more likely to continue sprucing. 
  • Anti-bacterial wipes. Ideal for mopping up coffee stains and cleansing your desk accessories (keyboard, mouse, laptop track-pad and phone), these handy wipes demolish germs in no time.
  • Open a window. Fresh air is so underrated. Great for improving concentration, energy levels and productivity, popping a window helps to circulate healthy air and can even protect you from Sick Building Syndrome
  • Hire a cleaner. If you want the job done properly, hire a cleaner. The cost averages £11.50 an hour and will cover those forgotten germ-problem areas, including door handles, light switches and taps.
  • Paperless admin. Invest in a cloud-based HR system and shred that stack of paper under your desk. Its' a no brainer; by transferring your files into the cloud, you'll free up space, have less items to collect dust and have all your employee information in one, GDPR-secure place that you can access anywhere. (Cough Breathe HR cough... looks like our office could do with a clean too.)  
  • Everyone is responsible. Whether you're the CEO or the apprentice this motto fits all. If you use, clear it. 

Employee hygiene

Steve is a great employee. He works smart, acts cool and lives and breathes the company ethos. He takes care of himself by making sure he eats right, sleeps enough and has enough down-time. He's recently added exercise to his health routine and now enjoys the challenge of a quick run at lunchtime. 

Steve's colleagues, who are slightly vexed by his new hobby, have spoken to their HR department.

"For the last couple of weeks, there's been a horrid smell lingering around the support department and it's seriously off-putting. We think it's Steve but don't know how to raise this with him. What do we do? He's such a great guy but he doesn't half pong."

Honesty is key here. If you were Steve's HR or line-manager, what would you do? Ours would waft their wand of compassionate honesty and air out any potential pitfalls. In other words, set up an informal, private meeting with Steve and express your concerns.

Remember that we all come in different shapes and sizes, therefore smells and hygiene habits tend to differ too. No one wants to be Smelly Steve. And no one wants to be talked about behind their backs. Step up to the plate and ask Steve if there's anything he needs help with.

By asking the questions that centre around how you can help him, you'll improve trust while showing your team that you can tackle embarrassing situations professionally. Remember what that H stands for in HR...

We'd recommend stocking up on some hygiene essentials for those unexpected moments. Offer hand-sanitiser and moisturising creams for the desk and keep a couple of cans of deodorant and some sanitary wear in the toilets. #Justincase. 

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Author: Rachael Down

With a passion for words, Content Specialist Rachel Down, is an experienced communicator with skills in journalism, content creation and web copy writing.

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