Working in a cubicle recently, I slouched down in my chair wondering if I could duck the germs my neighbor was hacking and sneezing in an invisible mist over our common wall. Thankfully, I managed to avoid her bug, but it got me thinking about all the microscopic creepy crawlies that were probably lurking about just waiting to invade my system.
Public bathrooms, subways, and even movie theaters are all spots that give germaphobes the shivers. With today's poorly ventilated, open plan work places, they can add offices to the list. Here are the "germiest" spots:
1. Communal Kitchen Items
Ahh, wouldn't a nice, hot cup of coffee taste good right now? Maybe not. NBC reports that coffee pot handles have been shown to harbor more bacteria than a toilet seat. The same goes for other break room hot spots: faucets, sinks, and refrigerator handles
2. Meeting Rooms
Unlike the bathroom, which is scrubbed with disinfectants regularly, meeting rooms rarely get cleaned and lots of people eat, shake hands, and share phones within its confines.
3. Office Phone
According to University of Arizona research, your office phone gets coated with bacteria from your mouth and hands, harboring about 25,000 germs per square inch. Yikes!
4. Shared Pens
You might want to think twice about letting a co-worker use your pen. On average, surface germs lurk for up to 72 hours.
5. Work Area/Desk Top
Don't think you can hide out in your cubicle. The entire desk area is a breeding ground of viruses and bacteria which can cause colds and flu as well as protozoa and fungi. The germiest spots are the telephone, computer keyboard, and computer mouse. In fact, a Wall Street Journal report reveals that your desk area may be 400 times germier than the proverbial toilet seat.
If you eat at your computer, you will also be feeding the mold and yeast farm that is growing in all the crumb-filled nooks and crannies in your personal work area. Probably, you don't wipe down your desk very often (ever). Estimates put it at 100 times germier than the average kitchen table.
6. Fax and Copier Machines
While the toilet seat gets regular cleaning, have you seen anyone sanitize these recently?
7. Elevator Buttons
If all this makes you want to cut work and skedaddle to the nearest big box store to buy an industrial sized carton of latex gloves and a dozen surgical masks, just be careful on your way out. The Journal points out that germs congregate at the point of most contact so beware of elevator buttons and escalator rails.
While certain areas do harbor a greater concentration of germs, there is no way to avoid contact since they spread over all surface areas including your skin. The most effective way to keep from getting sick is to practice good personal hygiene. Proper hand washing-as often as 10 times a day-helps keep you and others safe.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that you wet your hands and soap up for at least 20 seconds. If don't have access to a sink, the next best thing is to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. And, if you are sick? Stay home. Not only will you be doing your colleagues a favor, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the annual cost to employers for people who go to work ill tops $150 billion