Germ-Proof Your Office
You swear by the office bathroom drill: Wash hands, dry hands, use paper towel to open door, maneuver elbow and leg to move door, and return — skin untouched by germ threats — to your desk. Where, on average, about 21,000 germs per square inch await you — or 400 times more than the toilet seat you were so worried about. Your workspace needs some sanitation love, too. Our disinfecting tips will get you started, with less effort than it takes you to exit the bathroom.
Know Thy Enemy
Germs thrive on human touch, so anything that gets regular contact — telephone, mouse, keyboard — is a threat. “You’re touching about 30 objects per minute in your workspace” says germ guru Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist from the University of Arizona, who recently conducted a study of germs in the workplace. Among his findings: The humble cubicle is the germiest place in the office.
Grab a Wipe
Wipe down your space daily with a disinfectant — a chemical agent that kills microorganisms (plain ol’ water won’t deep-six germs). Handy dispenser wipes like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Sanitizing Wipes run only about 10 cents a sheet.
Don’t just wash your hands in that bathroom ritual; scrub ’em, says Jack Brown, Ph.D., author of Don’t Touch That Doorknob! How Germs Can Zap You and How You Can Zap Back. “The scrubbing motion dislodges the organisms from the surface,” he says, adding that a thorough wash should take about 45 seconds.
If you’re desk-confined, disinfect your hands with a sanitizer that contains alcohol, such as Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer. “Alcohol is a drying agent,” Dr. Brown says. “It tends to pull water away from the organisms, and that harms them.”
Avoid the Crowd
Shared space like the office kitchen is a germ magnet. “About 20 percent of the office cups contain coliform bacteria, which is related to fecal contamination,” Dr. Gerba says. Opt for a paper cup, or keep your own mug and wash it regularly with dish soap and a paper towel. And when possible, pass on control of the PowerPoint remote in the conference room — the gadgets registered some of the highest bacteria levels in Dr. Gerba’s study.