According to the University of Arizona’s germ guru Dr. Charles Gerba, desks, phones, water fountain handles, microwave door handles and keyboards are the top five most germ-contaminated spots in the office.
Last year The Independent reported that the average desk harbours 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat! The area where you rest your hand on the desk has in fact around 10,000,000 bacteria! With footfall in co-working spaces likely to be much higher than in a regular office, the germ count is also likely to be higher.
If you own a co-working space, poor cleanliness in co-working spaces could be putting your business at risk. If you use a co-working space, poor office hygiene could be putting you and your co-workers at risk of sickness. There are two layers of responsibility here. While the buck for cleanliness ultimately stops with the owner, individuals have a responsibility to their colleagues too.
Ultimately, it is up to the owner of the co-working space to keep the office, toilets and kitchen hygienic, and provide guidelines for co-workers to keep work and communal spaces tidy and clean. Co-workers shouldn’t pass the buck and leave desks, kitchens or loos in a sorry state.
There are lots of things managers of co-working spaces and those that use them can do to keep workspaces more hygienic. Here are 6 must-dos!
- House rules
Office owners should provide a list of clearly defined cleanliness rules to co-workers. The problem of office hygiene in a co-working space definitely needs management direction. Managers should place signs in the kitchen to remind workers to wash the glasses, cups and plates they use, so that the kitchen sink isn’t filled with dirty dishes at the end of each day. A note on the fridge should remind people to take foodstuff and Tupperware home at the end of each week.
Communal areas, like the kitchen and toilets should be checked regularly and any issues reported. Regular professional cleaning is imperative. See more on taking care of your co-working space here.
- Individual responsibility
Co-workers should have respect for those who will also be using the desk space and communal facilities, and follow the cleanliness rules to minimise the risk of germs. A courteous workplace etiquette will ensure you build respectful relationships with your co-workers.
The best way to keep an office clean is to make individuals take responsibility for the physical area they work in. If co-workers can be made aware that it is up to them to ensure their desk looks professional and presentable, they are much more likely to make the effort.
Desks can be kept clean by wiping down completely with an antibacterial wipe or a vinegar-based solution. While it is the responsibility of managers/owners of co-working spaces to ensure offices are professionally cleaned on a regular basis, individuals using the workspace should also leave desk spaces clean and tidy for their co-workers who are sharing the desk space.
Coach co-workers on the importance of a clean and tidy office in terms of productivity. Studies have shown that the average worker loses as much as an hour each day to disorganisation. A clean and tidy workspace could save as much as 260 hours each year in lost work time!
- It’s all about the bins
Every co-working space should be provided with a wastepaper bin (or a series of centrally located bins that are easily accessible from all co-working desks). Adequate waste and recycling bins should also be provided in kitchen and eating areas. Sanitary disposal bins must be provided in female washrooms in a readily accessible place.
Providing female co-workers with a discreet and hygienic place to dispose of feminine hygiene waste is not only crucial to maintaining a clean and pleasant washroom environment, it’s also a legal requirement.
- Impose the rule – no eating at desks
Eating at desks spreads germs and creates unnecessary litter around the workstation. It is also an issue for co-workers with serious allergies, such as an intolerance of peanuts. It could only take a crumb of a peanut cereal bar to cause a serious reaction. When people are sharing work spaces it is important to have some set rules around the consumption of food and drink. See here for some sound advice on navigating food allergies in the workplace.
A communal space for eating food is essential and will do wonders for creating a buzzy atmosphere and give co-workers a space to get away from desks. It also keeps crumbs and foodstuffs away from work areas.
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