If your job entails working at a desk, there are a few things you need to know about what might be growing on it. Whether it’s in an office or in your home, a desk usually offers favourable conditions for the growth of bacteria. And while yours might look clean, you might be horrified at what might be lurking on your desk.
What can be found on the average desk?
According to hygiene expert Lisa Ackerley, 10 million bacteria sit happily on the average desk. And if that isn’t disgusting enough, around 7,500 different organisms live on the average keyboard. It is now believed that unhygienic working environments such as these contribute to the millions of working days lost in the UK each year.
To put these numbers into some context, everyday desk items such as your pen, your mouse or your phone can harbour around 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. And it’s not just bacteria that are leading to lost hours at work; viruses are to blame too.
When you consider the fact that two thirds of us regularly eat our lunch at our desks, it’s easy to see why you need a comprehensive cleaning schedule in place. Unfortunately, Dr Ackerley’s research suggests that just one in five of us have one. According to the same research, accountants’ desks and telephones average around 6,000 bacteria per square inch, and bankers’ desks average around 5,400 per square inch. Is it any wonder that UK employees lose an average of nine days every year to sickness?
Fortunately, there is a simple solution: cleaning your desk daily. While you might believe that you simply don’t have the time for this level of commitment, there are a few things you can do to make desk cleaning quick and easy.
Basic desk cleaning tips
Declutter – Your desk is prime real estate. In order to work efficiently and keep it clean, it needs to be free from unnecessary clutter. Get into the habit of having only the items you need for your current project on your desk at any one time.
Keep a bin within arm’s reach
Clearing your desk will become a habit over time — but only if it is easy and quick. Make sure you have at least one bin within arm’s reach of your chair. Dispose of any waste paper, food packaging and general rubbish immediately. Then simply empty the bin as you leave your desk at the end of the day.
Keep anti-bacterial wipes close by
Every clean and tidy desk needs a plentiful supply of anti-bacterial wipes. Keep a pack in one of your desk drawers at all times. Give the entire surface of your desk a thorough wiping at least once a day — and after every meal you eat while sitting there. Don’t forget to sanitise the various items on your desk too, including your mouse, your phone and any items of stationery you use regularly.
Wash your hands regularly
Your hands are the real problem here. They are the main vehicle for bacteria and viruses, so they need to be kept as clean as possible. Wash them after eating, using items of office equipment or changing activities. A practical solution to this issue is to have a bottle of hand sanitiser on your desk at all times. You don’t need to obsess about cleaning your hands, but giving them some attention every couple of hours will keep bacteria to levels that won’t become a health issue.
Sanitise your cups and glasses regularly
Too many people simply give their coffee cup a quick rinse before using it again. To keep bacterial levels on your desk low, you should be sanitising your cups and glasses after every use. This should involve either putting them through the dishwasher or hand-washing with hot, soapy water. Try to avoid reusing water bottles, as they provide the ideal conditions for bacteria growth.
So the next time you sit down at your desk, think about what is sharing it with you. By making just a few adjustments to your daily rituals, you can ensure your workstation doesn’t pose a risk to your health.