Is My Office Making Me Ill?: Health and hygiene in the office should always be a top priority throughout the year so as to help prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria, which could make staff members ill and have an impact on productivity.
Because office-based employees typically work in close proximity to one another, the spread of germs is an ever-present reality and if one person is ill and comes into work, it’s likely that others will succumb at some point, as well.
However, this can be prevented relatively easily by making sure that office environments are kept clean and tidy, with a robust daily, weekly and monthly cleaning schedule in place.
Of course, staff awareness is also paramount and it’s vital that employees do their bit to keep offices healthy and germ-free. One of the places where bugs can be picked up is on the commute to work, so making sure that there are hand sanitising stations readily available for people to use as they come in could prove particularly beneficial.
Raising awareness of good hygiene practices like throwing tissues in the bin after coughs and sneezes and washing hands after going to the bathroom can also help make offices healthier places in which to work.
From a cleaning perspective, it’s important to remember that while you will need to give the entire office a scrub from top to toe regularly, some parts of the working environment will be dirtier and more prone to lurking bacteria than others.
Make sure you pay particularly close attention to high traffic areas and communal features that are touched most frequently, such as the desk’s computer mouse and phone, door handles, window handles, table tops, photocopiers and so on.
Even if you think your office is particularly clean and tidy, it could still be wreaking havoc with your employees’ health. Something to look out for are symptoms of sick building syndrome, which include headaches, dry and itchy skin, blocked and runny noses, coughs and wheezes, rashes, dry/sore eyes and throat, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
It’s thought that sick building syndrome is potentially caused by poor ventilation, bright and flickering lights, fabric fibres, fumes, smoke and dust in the air, and problems with cleaning and layout. Symptoms typically present themselves in open-plan offices, so if this is how you’ve laid your spaces out, you may want to be particularly on your guard.
If you’re concerned that your staff members are starting to display symptoms, open the windows to improve ventilation if possible, ensure they take regular breaks from their computer screens and encourage them to go outside during break times for some fresh air.
You may also find it helpful to read the Health and Safety Executive guidance on how to deal with sick building syndrome, as well as creating a good work environment.
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