Keep your office equipment clean

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Small businesses have plenty to focus on to keep their venture up and running day-to-day, but it means some issues can get pushed off the agenda.

For instance, how often do business start-ups stop to think about how clean their office equipment is? Not very often probably. Yet if you stop to think about it, everything from the telephone to the keys on your keyboard is probably covered in microbes and bacteria.

Of course, not all these are harmful, but poor cleanliness standards could make you and your workforce ill. So it seems clear that this is an issue that needs to be looked at if you want to avoid unnecessary staff absences and remain a productive business.

The Manchester Evening News was keen to examine this issue more closely and handed researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University a phone, a keyboard and a mouse from an open plan office where hot desking is the norm.

Worryingly, the team found dust, hair, crisps, Staphylococca and Enterobacter faecalis on the keyboard.

“I think people do various different things - you might go to the loo, you might come back to the office, do your typing, you’ve had your sandwiches and bits of sandwich go down the side, so it’s potentially just a hygiene issue," said Professor Jo Verran, one of the researchers.

“People do eat their sandwiches at their desks, it would be silly to say not to. But don’t type and eat your sandwiches at the same time.

“Have a break, have your lunch but also wash your hands afterwards.”

Obviously, a person who is hot desking cannot know whether or not the previous occupant of their desk has taken this advice and been hygienic.

And this is concerning, as Staphylococca, for example, can cause pimples and boils.

Professor Verran stressed that most microorganisms on the planet are good and that humans actually couldn't manage as well without them.

But this isn't a universal truth. Furthermore, bacteria is only able to multiply in the right conditions, and nutrients such as skin scales, crumbs and dust are ideal for them to thrive.

So if workers are creating exactly the right environment for harmful bugs to flourish, and other unsuspecting members of staff are sitting in the affected areas, there is a clear and definite risk that exists.

Owners of small businesses might be better off encouraging members of staff to have set working spaces to mitigate this risk.

They can take further steps by actively advising them on how to keep their desk and office equipment clean.

If it results in fewer staff sicknesses and a genuinely more hygienic and healthy working environment, the benefits will speak for themselves.