The long-term effects of the pandemic have meant that businesses are all becoming more conscious of keeping communal areas safe for workers returning to the office. With many office workers returning to the workplace, at least on a flexible basis over the past few months, it is important to understand the danger areas for harbouring germs and bacteria. And can, in some environments, be a matter of life and death. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the issue of cleanliness into sharp relief, particularly regarding surfaces where the virus might be transmitted.
The research has revealed just how important it is to keep office environments clean, using quality products multiple times a day to minimise risk. It is recommended that wiping down areas such as kettles and kitchen spaces after every use to stop the spread of bacteria and keep build-up of cells to a minimum, and ensuring everyone in communal spaces has access to effective and easy to use cleaning products.
It was no surprise that touchpoints that are contacted by multiple people and warm, humid environments, such as the kettle, are a breeding ground.
The main touchpoints were swabbed in offices to test for aerobic bacteria, yeast and mould. The swabs were then incubated and tested to find the amount of colony-forming units per cm2, revealing the worst offending areas for high levels of viable bacteria and fungal cells.
The germ hotspots of the office as revealed by the study were:
- Computer mouse (580 combined colony forming units)
- Kettle (336.6 combined colony forming units)
- Fridge (295 combined colony forming units)
- Laptop (264.8 combined colony forming units)
- Bathroom lock (188 combined colony forming units)
- Hand sanitiser bottle (175.5 combined colony forming units)
- Printer (100.5 combined colony forming units)
- Light switch (99 combined colony forming units)
- Desk phone (96.5 combined colony forming units)
- Kitchen cupboard (67.9 combined colony forming units
Potentially the most common touch point in the office is the desk but, compared to other areas, the desk swab actually produced the lowest amount of combined colony forming units, 4.8 in total. That’s a staggering 120 times less bacteria, yeast and mould than found on the computer mouse making it the dirtiest touchpoint in the office.
On the fridge, a staggering 130 colonies of bacteria were present on the swab sample, making it one of the most infectious areas in the workplace.
Other key areas that saw a high level of germs and bacteria included a laptop, bathroom lock and hand sanitiser bottle. The hand sanitiser bottle came top for the level of mould formation following the incubation period.
Interestingly, the toilet seat did not even make the top ten germ hotspots, with the toilet swab actually producing 11 times less combined colony forming units than a computer mouse.