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Coming clean: The dirty truth behind UK offices
GCC Facilities Management, which provides commercial cleaning & office cleaning services across the UK, recently surveyed over 650 members of the public workforce to gain an understanding on how often their workspaces and equipment are cleaned.
This was in addition to research carried out by Printerland in May 2018 which found that the average desk harbours 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
Although 35% of workers stated that their desk was cleaned every day and 28% said that this was done on a weekly basis, individually desk items seem to be neglected when it comes to hygiene. The research also found that 9% cleaned their desk monthly whilst 11% didn't clean it at all.
According to the Printerland study, this could carry risk of contracting Heterotrophic bacteria, E. coli, Helicobacter pylori, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.
Cleaning your own desks can seem rather redundant when the items you touch most are overlooked though.
When asked how often the mouse, keyboard and telephone were cleaned, either by the worker or a third party, 37% declared that their computer mouse was not cleaned at all. Further, 31% of keyboards are never cleaned and 28% of telephones are also left uncleaned.
Despite the lack of willingness to clean the telephone, tests have revealed that this well-used piece of equipment harbours 25,127 germs per square inch - some 760% more than the keyboard which has 3,295 grams per square inch. This makes the telephone one of the dirtiest items surveyed. The mouse tested the cleanest of all three items with 1,676 germs per square inch.
When asked whether poor cleanliness at their workplace has ever caused them to bring in kitchenware of their own (such as mugs, bowls or tupperware, for example) and whether they have ever spent personal income on cleaning equipment or appliances for the sole purpose of using them in the office, 32% of staff members said that they avoid communal kitchenware and bring their own, due to a lack of confidence in the cleanliness of shared items. Further, 23% have used their own personal funds to supply items for the office to maintain cleanliness.
However, the majority of those surveyed were happy with the sanitation of communal spaces that are most often serviced by cleaners.
Toilets scored the highest percentage of satisfaction with just under 40% satisfied and another 30% said that they were highly satisfied. Though toilets scored well in general, 16% of respondents remained either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, showing that there is still a perceived lack of cleanliness.
The kitchen also scored highly with 38% satisfied with the upkeep. The fridge scored a high 37% on satisfaction. The kitchen is usually the hotbed for office social interaction yet 13% admitted they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with its cleanliness.
Overall, the responses give a clear indication that personal and shared items are often left to harbour bacteria and in a busy office environment can be forgotten about, potentially going a lifetime without being cleaned.
"The findings show that desk cleanliness is easily neglected, despite the health risks that it carries and the knock-on effects it could have for businesses in terms of sickness, reduced capacity and absences," says Claire Maclean, managing director, GCC Facilities Management.
"More needs to be done to firstly raise awareness of the health risks that dirtier working surfaces can pose amongst office workers and secondly, businesses should take more action to ensure that their staff are working in a clean and healthy environment.
"Surfaces and equipment can harbour dirt, viruses and bacteria that can remain active for months. Without regular office cleaning and good personal hygiene - e.g. antibacterial handwashing - there's an increased chance of these surface germs transferring to you and giving you illnesses like flu, food poisoning and diarrhoea.
"If you fall ill, it's best to take time off work to fully recover and reduce the chance of any harmful germs spreading to your colleagues."
10th October 2019