We all like to be clean and hygienic, we wash and bathe daily (in most cases) and we wash our hands after using the toilet or after handling something unpleasant. The same care extends to our living space as well, we clean it regularly, we use cleaning agents and soaps to ensure we are safe from germs and bacteria that could do some serious harm if they were left unchecked.
So far so good right. But…
A large majority of the working population in the UK work in an office environment of one form or another. For most of us, these are large open plan offices with many desks and many people all working in a bright, open and airy environment, air conditioned for everyone’s comfort. Except, how hygienic are they really?
Does this sound familiar? it’s home time. You shut down your computer, you go home, you hug and kiss the other half, maybe pick up your child and hug and kiss them too. What have you just done? you have potentially just passed on a cocktail of bacteria you weren’t even aware you had and a short time later, the kids are ill and everyone has a cold.
“but our offices are cleaned daily, I’ve seen them in the evening” i’m sure they are, i’m sure they even wipe clean your desk as well, but what about the items on the desk.
The dirtiest item in your office is your computer mouse, studies have found it is home to more than three times the bacteria levels of the average toilet seat, how many times a day do you use your computer mouse without thinking? do you alone use your desk, many companies use a “hot-desking” system where multiple employees use the same desk because of shift work, that can exponentially increase your exposure to bacteria.
Now obviously, you cannot eliminate 100% your exposure to workplace bacteria but you can minimise your risk.
Take a few extra minutes in the morning before you start work and wipe down your workstation with anti-bacterial wipes, we recommend Compuclean Office Equipment Wipes use 1 wipe for the desk surface, especially if you like to eat at your desk at lunchtime. Use a second wipe for the keyboard, this is the second dirtiest item in the office and use a third wipe for the top surface and sides of the mouse. The packs are resealable and can be kept in your desk or bag. That should give you a fighting chance.
One other point, to minimise the risk of taking anything home with you, thoroughly wash your hands just before leaving for the day. Get rid of the work funk before handling your loved ones.
Open plan workspaces are great melting pots of bacteria, office planners and architects spend hours creating a vision of a modern working environment, from desk layout to window placement, but not one of them stops to consider the risk of illness and spread of a virus inside such an environment.
How many times has this happened? someone gets a cold, comes to work coughing and sneezing and a week or so later you get ill despite having no contact directly with the infected person?
You may not realise, but just because “sneezy” is sitting the other side of the office from you, you are still being infected by their virus.
“You may not realize it, but that multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud you’re about to expel in a sneeze of cough have associated gas clouds that keep their potentially infectious droplets aloft over much greater distances than previously realised”
That was quoted from a new study made by MIT in America.
“When you cough or sneeze, you see the droplets, or feel them if someone sneezes on you,” says John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics at MIT, and co-author of a new paper on the subject. “But you don’t see the cloud, the invisible gas phase. The influence of this gas cloud is to extend the range of the individual droplets, particularly the small ones.”
Researchers have illuminated the flows of coughs with powerful lasers and fancy photo techniques through the use of powerful computers to model this flow of thousands of tiny particles. They’ve used heated manikins and cough machines in rooms filled with tiny droplets of olive oil or theatrical smoke to track how air moves, where breath goes, and how exposed we are to someone else’s cough.
A typical cough starts with a deep breath, followed by a compression of air in the lungs and then a crackling burst as that air is forced out in a fraction of a second.
The average human cough would fill about three-quarters of a two-liter soda bottle with air — air that shoots out of the lungs in a jet several feet long. Coughs also force out thousands of tiny droplets of saliva. About 3,000 droplets are expelled in a single cough, and some of them fly out of the mouth at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.
Sneezing is even worse.
It starts at the back of the throat and produces even more droplets — as many as 40,000 — some of which rocket out at speeds greater than 200 miles per hour. The vast majority of the droplets are less than 100 microns across — the width of a human hair. Many of them are so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye.
“What happens to these droplets depends on their size,” said fluid dynamicist Bakhtier Farouk of Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is working on software that models how microscopic droplets move around a room.
Most of the larger, heavier drops fall quickly to the floor under the influence of gravity. The smaller and lighter particles (those that are five microns or less across) are less affected by gravity and can stay airborne almost indefinitely as they are caught up in and dispersed by the room’s airflow.
The upshot of all that is even though the person with the cold is coughing at the back of the room, chances are you are still breathing in their germs thanks to that wonderful, open plan, modern, working environment you are sitting in.
Now don’t get me started on office Air Conditioning!!