To stay healthy at work, try to stay home when sick

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

If you’re a germaphobe, you might want to change your rubber gloves and turn to another page.

If you work in an office and don’t want to catch a cold, the flu or something worse, there follows some information that you might find useful.

The folks at Kimberly-Clark Professional pulled out their ATP meter and used it to analyze swabs from nearly 5,000 surfaces in office buildings where 3,000 workers were employed.

An ATP meter measures ATP naturally enough — adenosine triphosphate — a molecule found in all animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast and mold cells.

The more ATP, the more likely the surface is teeming with bacteria and viruses.

A reading of 100 indicates the surface could use a good scrub down.

A reading of 300 or more indicates the surface is actually filthy enough to be dangerous.

The worst? Break room sink faucet handles, 75 percent of which showed readings of 300 or higher.

Other filthy surfaces? Forty-eight percent of microwave door handles, 27 percent of keyboards, 26 percent of refrigerator door handles, 23 percent of water fountain buttons and 21 percent of vending machine buttons.

And about that refrigerator door handle — you might be better off storing your lunch in the bathroom.

With more and more of us eating lunch at our desks, more of us leaving smelly food like casseroles, cold cuts, poultry, sour cream and yogurt in the communal fridge.

And those employee lunches are great but watch out for the leftovers.

“One of the worst problems is office leftovers that everyone is encouraged to eat,” University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension registered dietitian Alice Henneman told Bloomberg Business Week. “Who knows how long they sat out before they were refrigerated. One company saw more than 30 people were sickened eating leftovers when the food, which was stored in a deep container, didn’t cool fast enough.

The average office refrigerator might get cleaned out about once a month, and about 22 percent get cleaned out just once or twice a year.

If you’re worried about catching a cold or flu at the office, what about other people?

Staples Business Advantage found that nearly half of employees surveyed would give up a vacation day to allow another coworker who was sick to stay home.

Although we know coming to work sick can spread the disease, almost 80 percent of us do so anyway. Nearly 73 percent of workers say they caught a cold at work and 32 percent blamed their fellow coworkers.

Forty-eight percent said their employer has disinfecting wipes in the office; 77 percent of employees bring their own, two-thirds think employers should offer flu shots and 74 percent think employers should encourage workers to stay home.

To do what you can to stay healthy, here are some tips:

* Keep hand sanitizer at your desk and use it immediately after every meeting or conference.

* Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you get to work.

* Use disinfectant wipes to clean your desk at least once a day, especially if you eat at your desk.

* Use disinfectant wipes to sanitize high-touch areas in a break room.

* Keep hand sanitizer in the break room to reinforce healthy hand hygiene behaviors.

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