6 Dirtiest Things in Your Office

Woman sick at work

Sick co-worker | Source: iStock

Your office is a home away from home, so you may not think too much about some of the germs that may be lingering around your work space. However, it would be in your best interest to start paying attention to all of the potential germ havens in your office. It could mean the difference between getting sick or staying well. Here are some of the dirtiest plac­­es in your office. You may want to break out the hand wipes after reading this.

1. Sink and microwave handles

You’ll be sharing a lot more than food with your co-workers when you have a meal in the break room. The sink and microwave door handles were found to be the dirtiest places in U.S. offices, according to a study conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional and University of Arizona microbiology professor Charles Gerba. Using an instrument that measures adenosine triphosphate (ATP), researchers measured contamination levels in several offices across the United States. ATP can be found in all animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast, and mold cells. Traces of ATP suggest contamination, and objects showing an ATP of 300 or higher are considered to have a high risk for transmitting illness, according to the study’s researchers. More than 75% of break room faucets and sinks in this study were found to have ATP levels above 300. Roughly 48% of microwave door handles had ATP levels above 300.

2. The copy machine

Almost everyone’s fingers press the buttons on your office copy machine throughout the day, so over time, lots of germs start to accumulate. Your best bet is to clean the key pad with disinfecting wipes before using it. Gerba noted that since roughly 80% of people go to work when they are sick, they easily spread germs, costing companies hundreds of dollars in lost productivity.

3. Your desk

You may be comfortable using it as a resting spot for your morning coffee, but your office desk is a hotspot for germs. In fact, Gerba says office desks have a greater germ load than a toilet seat. If you want to get specific, the average office desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. And if that’s not gross enough for you, studies have found that the area where your hands rest on your desk has roughly 10,000 bacteria. So unless you regularly wipe your desk down, you’re hosting a wild bacteria party every time you sit down to work.

4. Your chair

Chair at work

office chair | Source: iStock

Surprisingly, the back of your office chair is swarming with bacteria. This is according to a study conducted by researchers at San Diego University. You’re more likely to wipe down your phone or keyboard and forget your chair, so this may explain the findings.

5. Your co-workers

Researchers in the same San Diego University study found much of the bacteria in your office is derived from nasal, oral, and intestinal cavities. Furthermore, your co-workers—men in particular—may be responsible for much of the office bacteria. In fact, men were found to have 10% to 20% more bacteria in their work areas than women. The researchers proposed this may be partly due to the fact that men are generally larger and have more surface area to grow and shed bacteria.

6. Your keyboard

Roughly 27% of keyboards in Gerba’s study had ATP levels greater than 300. If you’re worried about contamination from your office, Brad Reynolds, North American platform leader for The Healthy Workplace Project, said all it takes is keeping your hands and work area clean and tidy. “This study demonstrates that contamination is all over the workplace and has the potential to reach people where they eat and prepare food, as well as elsewhere. No one can avoid it entirely, but by washing, wiping and sanitizing, employees can reduce their rates of cold, flu, and stomach illness by up to 80%,” said Reynolds.

Follow Sheiresa on Twitter and Facebook.

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: