The typical office can be a hotbed of germ activity during cold and flu season. People who would normally do the common sense thing and stay home in bed when not feeling well tend to tough it out and go to to work whether they are ill or not. This is not wise or fair to the co-workers who must share the air and office space, but especially when the economy is at a low, most people cannot afford to stay home and lose pay.
So what can you do to minimize an unhealthy situation? Here are five easy ways to keep bacteria down to a minimum.
1) It wouldn’t hurt to keep a supply of an immune booster, such as Airborne or Emergen-C in the coffee room. This could come out of the coffee fund and be added to bottled drinking water to keep more people from becoming ill should they be exposed to cold or flu germs. The coffee area is going to be a heavy traffic area, with many hands handling common objects. Frequently wiping down the coffee pot and the containers of creamer with a disinfectant wipe will keep the germ level at a low.
2) Hand sanitizer is a real blessing when you are not able to get to the bathroom to wash your hands and have been handling common use office equipment. If your office gets many visitors coming in and out it might be a good idea to keep a small, discreet bottle of sanitizer on the reception desk counter. Seeing the bottle usually will trigger a Pavlov response to use a it before entering the office. Wiping down doorknobs frequently with disinfectant wipes will keep a surface that is handled by many as germ free as possible.
3) Frequently use an air freshening disinfectant spray to keep the bacterial level in the air down to a minimum. There is nothing we can do about sharing the same air, but we can try to keep it as germ free as we are able.You don’t want to offend anybody, but if you have an office mate who is ill chances are if you are sharing the same air in a confined room you will soon have what they have.
4) Shared equipment will receive constant attention from a variety of hands. During cold and flu season, at the risk of being labeled a germaphobe, it is a good idea to wipe down equipment and file cabinets a couple of times a day with disinfectant wipes. Common use equipment such as phones, copiers and fax machines will have been handled by many people over the course of the day. If these are kept wiped down the germ activity will be kept down. (Then when you get back to your desk you can use a dab of hand sanitizer….better safe than sick!)
5) Finally, the two areas that receive the most action in an office environment are always the bathrooms and the kitchen area. Bathroom faucets and doors should be wiped down with disinfectant wipes, seat protectors should be used on the toilets and hands should definitely be washed with hot water during the day. Everybody utilizes the kitchen area. Make sure that common surfaces such as the refrigerator, sink faucets, and counters are frequently wiped down with disinfectant wipes. This is a good idea not only to do during cold and flu season, but also as a safeguard against food poisoning. Remember to disinfect your hands before putting anything into your mouth. Germs are passed through mucous membranes, and that means mouth, eyes and nose. It is also safer to not share food during cold and flu season. Keep your own food in wrapped personal containers.
Germs are out there, ready to come home with you and you have no control over that. Your best defense is just to keep the air and surfaces around you as bacteria free as possible, even though it might take a little extra work and even if people think you’re a little bit OCD!
AUTHOR BIO: Harriet Norris works in the janitorial supplies industry and enjoys writing about health issues in her spare time.