It has been estimated that an office desk can be home to 400 times more germs than on a toilet seat. In addition to harboring surface bacteria, offices can contain up to five times the levels of air pollutants than outdoors. As more workers return to the office, their health and wellbeing should be a priority, but dirty and poorly ventilated offices can cause health issues ranging from a blocked nose to Legionnaires’ Disease. By ensuring offices are kept thoroughly clean and well ventilated, it is possible to minimize the effects of airborne allergens, stop the spread of surface germs, and lower the risk of illness in office workers.
Cleaning Surface Germs
As many as 90% of workers go to the office when they are feeling unwell. As well as being less productive at work, if they are contagious, they could be causing their colleagues to become ill. It is easy for illnesses such as strep throat or stomach flu to spread in shared offices, where germs gather on high-touch areas such as desks, printers, and door handles. Maintaining high cleaning standards is vital, but as well as removing visible dirt from carpets and furniture, it is important to sanitize or disinfect surfaces in order to kill harmful bacteria that can cause disease.
Minimizing Air Pollutants
By keeping the workplace clean, the number of airborne pollutants and allergens is also reduced. Indoor pollutants, such as dust mite allergens and mold spores, can be triggers for asthma attacks in vulnerable workers. Good ventilation can improve air quality, and regularly cleaning and servicing HVAC systems will minimize the risk of outbreaks of illnesses such as Legionnaires disease, a form of pneumonia spread by airborne water droplets.
Curing Sick Building Syndrome
All of these individual pollutants contribute to Sick Building Syndrome, a condition that causes a range of health issues in people working in the same office. As well as keeping offices clean and well ventilated, longer-term solutions include creating greener work environments. Office furniture and carpets can emit volatile organic compounds which can cause a number of symptoms, most commonly irritation to the nose, throat, and eyes. Replacing fixtures and fittings with natural, environmentally-friendly alternatives can help to reduce the risk of feeling unwell in the office.
As normal office life resumes, the health and safety of workers is of great importance. Simple steps to keep workplaces clean and well ventilated can significantly limit the numbers of bacteria and airborne allergens, and the health risks that they pose.