Spread cheer, not germs, in the office this Christmas

Spread cheer, not germs, in the office this Christmas

By Jamie Woodhall, UK technical & innovation manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene

Paul Casson, technical field manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us. And while it’s traditionally a time for employees to embrace the festive spirit with open arms, combining cold temperatures with a steady flurry of social events, may well create the perfect environment for winter illnesses to thrive.

Whilst Figures for 2017 show the average number of sick days taken by UK workers has almost halved since 1993, with over a quarter of these days caused by minor illnesses like coughs and colds, it appears that employees are battling through their sniffles to get to the office. This commitment to making it into the office could create a hot bed for germs to spread as quickly as any festive cheer unless basic hygiene steps are followed.

To ensure the office remains a happy and healthy place to work, there are several steps we can all take to help mitigate any hygiene risks.

What’s brewing this Christmas?

As temperatures plummet, employees may turn to the office kettle more than usual for a warm winter fix. But it’s these Christmas tea runs where staff could unknowingly be sharing germs with their colleagues. Initial’s survey of 1,000 office workers found that only a third of people wash a mug before making a cup of tea for a colleague, with a further 80% admitting they don’t wash their hands before making someone else’s tea. As part of this research, a swabbing experiment also revealed extraordinarily high levels of bacteria on the tins or boxes where office tea bags are kept – on average an incredible 17 times higher than the microbial activity found on the average toilet seat.

Whilst the regular and vigilant cleaning of shared kitchen facilities in office environments will go a long way to helping reduce bacterial and viral contamination, encouraging more hygienic employee behaviour can also play a huge part. As well as washing mugs between tea rounds and wiping down tea-making equipment, a simple but thorough wash of hands can help overcome any potential cross contamination. For office and facilities managers, this means making sure kitchens are well equipped with soap and sanitisers to offer employees access to good hand hygiene, as well as placing helpful hand washing reminders around the office.

Guilt(and germ)-free indulgence

From mince pies to selection boxes, festive nibbles will inevitably creep their way onto employees’ desks. Yet Initial research, commissioned in recognition of this year’s Global Handwashing Day, revealed that 61% of Brits don’t always wash their hands before eating, with a further 74% admitting they don’t wash their hands before snacking. This is concerning given that around 80% of all infections are transmitted by hand.

Pair this with the hotdesking trend becoming more common, and the fact that the majority of people eat their lunch at their desk at least three times a week, germs will soon start to feel as indulged as we do!

It’s no secret that good hand hygiene is crucial, and our handwashing research emphasises this message even more, with the level of bacteria present on people’s hands decreasing by 83% after they were encouraged to wash their hands prior to meals.

Hand sanitisers form a long-lasting barrier against microbes, providing ongoing protection for several hours after use.  So, if space allows, installing a hand sanitiser dispenser in washrooms or public work areas should encourage a more proactive approach to hand hygiene.

Baby, it’s cold outside

After a mild Autumn, many might look forward to the frosty and crisp temperatures of December, but regrettably, cold weather provides the ideal conditions for illnesses like the flu and Norovirus to thrive.

It’s the role of the office manager to ensure that regular cleaning takes place throughout a facility, supplemented by a thorough deep clean at least twice a year. Ensuring good quality infection control procedures are in place is well worth the investment and can help to prevent or reduce any illness outbreaks amongst your staff from occurring

One secret weapon which can help prevent an outbreak, or if an outbreak takes place, get the site back to normal as quickly as possible – is Ultra Low Volume (ULV) fogging.

This technique enables treatment of large areas in a short space of time by generating a mist formed of tiny droplets of disinfectant, measuring 5-50 microns in diameter. Carried out by a trained cleaning specialist ULV fogging significantly reduces the number of potentially harmful pathogens, as it can cover large spaces quickly, and ensure those hard-to-reach areas that manual cleaning might miss are treated. The fogging technique can also include a disinfectant with ‘Reactive Barrier Technology’ to keep areas sanitised for extended periods of time. Considering deep cleaning techniques like ULV fogging alongside routine cleaning procedures could be essential in keeping your office full of cheer, not germs, this December.

Final words

With a small investment, office managers can ensure they’re putting the needs of their employees first by tackling the spread of bacteria and viruses this festive season. Tackling these hygiene risks by employing the necessary tactics to prevent them will go a long way to ensuring a very Merry Christmas for everyone in the office!


Spread cheer, not germs, in the office this Christmas