Unexpected Germ Nightmare: The Office

You might think that because your office is professionally cleaned, dusted and swept regularly that it’s one of the cleanest places you could spend your day (that’s more cleaning than happens in my house, for instance, on a weekly basis…).

But, it’s not. It’s really, really gross.

Ragan Communications has posted an infographic from MASTER Cleaners Ltd, which points to just how dirty our desks, phones, and other work surfaces are – and no, I’m not talking about clutter on your desk, or even the pile of shoes under your desk (shoe graveyard, as I’ve affectionately called mine).

Be prepared: You’ll want to have your anti-bacterial wipes ready.

The dirty details:

  • Office phones have about 25,000 germs per square inch.
  • Cold and flu viruses can survive for up to 18 hours on hard surfaces; and bacteria actually increase by up to 31% per day on surfaces that aren’t regularly disinfected. If you’re sick, this just proves that you should stay at home until you are better.
  • Wash your hands – and then use antibacterial gel when you get back to your desk, because 75% of office tap handles are considered a serious risk for illness transmission.
  • I’ve saved this one for last: office desks have been found to be more than 400 times dirtier than a toilet seat. On average, about 10,000 bacteria reside around the area where your hands rest. Most keyboards contain 70% more bacteria than a toilet seat.

Alright, now that you are thoroughly disgusted, here are a few simple ways you can combat office germs as we head straight into cold and flu season:

  • I’ll say it again: Wash your hands. The same lesson that applied as children still applies now (though, as I witnessed a woman leave a library bathroom without washing her hands the other day, some people still don’t get this simple message).
  • Clean your stuff – disinfecting your phone, desk, door handles and other hard surfaces regularly and often will help keep bacteria at bay.
  • Take an actual lunch break and eat somewhere else – if you must eat in the office, absolutely don’t place the food straight onto the solid surfaces of your desk.
  • Do your coworkers a favor and stay home if you’re ill – there’s just no good excuse to come in to work if you’re infectious.

Of course, you can’t live life in a bubble. Germs and sickness are a part of life; but remember that there are a few easy things you can do to keep yourself and others around you healthy. We’re all in it together!

Ill Communication: Strange Reasons People Call in “Sick”

I once had to delay coming to work because my dog, Harry (pictured), injured his foot jumping off of my bed. While I didn’t call in “sick” and actually told my supervisors what was going on, it was an odd reason to be sure. (Even more odd considering he was fine the next day after I dropped a couple hundo at the vet, and he may have simply been in search of some painkillers to ease the stress he must be under from sleeping all day and listening to light rock radio.)

At any rate, Ragan reports on CareerBuilder’s survey about the reasons people can’t make it in to work. Some of these excuses will amuse you:

Take a look at this list CareerBuilder compiled from the survey. You may have heard some of these yourself.

When asked to share the most memorable excuses, employers reported the following real-life examples:

• Employee’s sobriety tool wouldn’t allow the car to start.
• Employee forgot he was hired for the job.
• Employee said her dog was having a nervous breakdown.
• Employee’s dead grandmother was being exhumed for a police investigation.
• Employee’s toe was stuck in a faucet.
• Employee said a bird bit her.
• Employee was upset after watching “The Hunger Games.”
• Employee got sick from reading too much.
• Employee was suffering from a broken heart.
• Employee’s hair turned orange from dying her hair at home.

29 percent of bosses check up on excuses

The survey also found that a fair number of managers want to verify if sick workers are actually sick.

This was a big issue for me when I was a manager in Hawaii in a union shop, and mysteriously had a number of the surfers on staff call in sick when the surf was particularly large. I never caught any of them surfing when they should have been home in bed, but that was more because I didn’t have the time or resources to track all of them down.

Twenty-nine percent of employers say they have checked up on an employee to verify that his or her illness was legitimate, usually by requiring a doctor’s note or calling the employee later in the day.