One of the key takeaways of 2020 was how much-normalized behavior impacts individual and collective wellbeing. With the advent of the most disruptive pandemic of the 21st century, there is a growing understanding of just how important habits like washing hands, cleaning surfaces, wearing face masks, and using hand sanitizer really are. While people are often fastidious about their homes and common spaces, a desk is a health hazard that can fly under the radar due to a huge range of factors such as busyness, lack of compliance for such an individual space, and a culture of eating at workstations.
What’s of equal concern is that even though most workplaces are cleaned regularly, cleaning industry data shows that desks can be a hotbed of bacteria, viral debris, and germs. Whether it’s constantly being on deadline, underestimating germs, or rotating workspaces through hot-desking, it’s really no surprise that one study found that the average desk harbors 400 times more germs than a toilet seat! The same study from Printerland, which surveyed 1,000 office workers, found that “One in ten employees admit to only cleaning their desk once a month, and a further 9% said their workstation never gets disinfected.”
In reality, poor desk cleaning and hygiene habits have a huge scope of impact. Beyond raising the risk of becoming sick and seasonal illnesses (such as the flu spreading quickly), according to The Independent, there are major public health concerns around what happens when basic cleaning is missed. Jack Peat highlights this in the piece writing, “Failing to clean regularly with antibacterial wipes can encourage dangerous bugs to breed, such as Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, E-coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to name a few”. Bacteria like these can lead to stomach ulcers, staph infections, food contamination, and blood infections respectively, all of which can make people unwell through to causing hospitalization. In the day-to-day workplace, an unhygienic environment can cause stress and undermine confidence among workers or cause health outbreaks that seriously affect both those who fall ill and the organization at large.
Even if a workplace has stringent cleaning systems and services, it’s still essential for each person to take responsibility for the hygiene of their desk. On a normal day, a person will spend eight hours at their workstation and engage in a range of behaviors that shed viral fragments, contaminate equipment with germs, and spread bacteria. Prioritizing time to responsibly keep a space as hygienic as possible is a core part of workplace health and safety that is shown to have holistic benefits for productivity and workflow while promoting unity if all team members uphold positive cleaning practices. In the context of a post-Covid-19 world, it’s also likely that these types of policies will be heavily enforced to protect everyone in the workplace with Bloomberg reporting that there are already new safety protocols in some countries requiring minimum stocks of hand sanitizer and face masks to constantly be kept on hand.
To delve into desk hygiene in more detail, the infographic resource below from Cleaning Services Group provides extensive tips and a practical toolkit for individuals to use at home and at the office or organizations for their entire workplace. Including a thorough checklist, this graphic outlines more comprehensive statistics and facts as well as the unexpected range of ways a desk can impact the health of the individual and a team.