Why you shouldn't eat at your office desk

Why you shouldn’t eat at your office desk

As the weather warms up people’s attention turns to that glorious tradition of al fresco dining, and office workers all over the country will be taking advantage of their sunny lunch breaks to soak up some sunshine, rather than eating lunch at their desks, something that over half the country’s office workers do every weekday.

There are some advantages of eating at your desk over a picnic, you’re impervious to rain, you’re unlikely to be on top of an ants nest, and there aren’t any seagulls or pigeons giving your sandwich the eye. Unlike picnics though, you can’t pick up your desk, chair, keyboard, screen and mouse and flap them about to shake all the dropped food and crumbs off.

A year of eating at your desk five days a week, even for the most fastidious and tidy desk diner, will result in a noticeable build-up of food and drink remains around your desk. Whether that’s crumbs in the keyboard or sticky mug rings, or even soft food trodden into the carpet, the reality is that your desk is an ecology unto itself, and any food and drink that isn’t cleaned up will be pounced upon by resident bacteria to feed their constant multiplication.

At its worst, this can manifest itself as a particularly ugly smell and visible, grungy residues under the keys on your keyboard, under your mouse, around the buttons on your telephone, and indeed anywhere your hands make regular contact with office equipment. In most cases, thankfully, it never gets this bad, but the bacteria in question will still be present, only in lower numbers, although that still means that the average office desk supports more than 400 times the number of bacteria you’d typically find on a toilet seat.

But with billions lost to the economy every year through staff illness, and average absences lasting more than 9 days, every measure we take to keep workplaces clean and hygienic has the potential to pay for itself very quickly indeed.
The facts are that 80% of common infections are transmitted by touch; a typical office workers hands may come into contact with something like 10 million bacteria every day, many of which can cause illness. Viruses like influenza and the common cold can survive on hard surfaces like office desks, keyboards, telephones and computer mice for up to 24 hours. We can’t eliminate the risks completely, but we can significantly reduce them by maintaining an appropriate level of hygiene through good practice, regular cleaning, disinfecting and hand washing.

If you are eating at your desk this lunchtime, you can help the cleaning service at your office minimise hygiene risks with a few simple steps:

  • Wash your hands before eating.
  • If you can, use a clean plate and clean cutlery to eat your meal, rather than your hands.
  • If you are having a sandwich or other finger food, bring a clean napkin into work to cover your desk and catch the crumbs and stray blobs of mayo.
  • Don’t type or use your mouse when eating.
  • Wash your hands after eating.

Here, at Crystal Clean Service, we provide provides two types of cleaning services specifically for workstations, which you can do yourself if your cleaning service doesn’t offer it. The basic clean is performed weekly to prevent dust from building up on workstations. Damp cloths and sanitisation spray is used to clean desks. Phones, keyboards and monitors are dusted with either a feather duster or a dry microfibre cloth.

A deep clean sanitises the workstation and everything associated with it, using sanitising spray and microfibre cloths to remove deposits from screens, keyboards, mice and telephones. Communal equipment, the likeliest source of cross contamination, also needs sanitising so don’t forget to deep clean those workgroup printers and photocopiers!

No-one can eliminate sources of infection completely, that’s impossible, but regular and effective cleaning will reduce infection risks, which may lead to increased productivity, less staff illness and improved staff health and morale.

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