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Why your office may be dirtier than a public toilet

Our office desks may be dirtier than a standard toilet seat, with more than 10 million bacteria lurking on our keyboards, phones and the computer mouse.

Dr Libby Sander, assistant professor of Organisational Behaviour at Bond University, told Yahoo7 there was 400 times more bacteria on your desk than a public toilet seat.

“Studies have shown up to half of people in the workplace don’t wash their hands or use hand soap,” Dr Sander said.

“Hand hygiene is core, and that’s transmitting a lot of bad bacteria to our desk.”

The news is worse for those who hot desk. Dr Sander said half of employees did not use sanitation wipes to clean their desks at the end of the day.

“A lot of people can’t be bothered when hot-desking. If it’s your own desk you’re more likely to care about the state of it, but people who hot-desk don’t have any attachment,” she said.

Office desks are dirtier than toilet seats.
More than 10 million bacteria can be found on our desks. Source: Getty

The dirtiest spots in the office

A 13-month study conducted by American researchers found high bacterial counts on elevator buttons, office phones, water fountains, computer keyboards and vending machine buttons.

The office kitchen is one of the dirtiest areas in the workplace, with the highest bacteria recordings on sink faucets and microwave and fridge handles.

Dr Sander said dirty offices led to high rates of absenteeism due to sickness.

“It’s an issue because its a huge cost to employers,” Dr Sander said.

Absences due to sickness cost employers in Australia $7 billion a year. Source: Getty
Absences due to sickness cost employers in Australia $7 billion a year. Source: Getty

According to the Workplace Wellness in Australia report, absenteeism is costing employers about $7 billion a year.

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine said 62 per cent more people in open-plan offices called in sick, compared to those in private offices.

Dr Sander said it became a bigger problem when people came to work while they were sick.

“They are not productive and are also making people sick around them,” she said.

Why are our desks so dirty?

It’s not just hand hygiene that’s causing our workspaces to become riddled with germs.

Dr Sander said people eating at their desks because they were too busy to take a break was a major contributor.

Leaving dirty cutlery, plates and cups on a desk can cause more bacteria to creep across your desk.

Putting food waste in bins at desks also invites germs.

“The bin at the desk is designed to put paper in, it’s not designed for people eating fish curry for lunch and banana peels,” Dr Sander said.

“Food waste is not meant to be going in here and people are too lazy to walk back to the kitchen.”

Dr Libby Sanders says eating at your desk can spread bacteria. Source: Getty
Dr Libby Sanders says eating at your desk can spread bacteria. Source: Getty

Dr Sander said when it came to cleanliness, people in the office were slacker than they were at home.

“People in the office tend to think someone else is responsible for cleaning so people behave quite differently in the workplace,” she said.

Dr Sander said people should practise good hygiene habits at work and wash their hands and clean dirty dishes.

She said workers should also clean desks, keyboards, phones and their computer mouse with sanitisation wipes.