The 10 things making you sick in your office

(FYI your desk accommodates 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.)

germs in office
(Image credit: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)

(FYI your desk accommodates 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.)

Statistically, this is the month where people will take the most sick days from work. We're guessing it's because we all managed to survive the Christmas season, got back into 'regular life' in January (maybe you even did dry January?) and then by February, we start flagging - and the germs start getting to us.

And, being sick in the office just isn't fun. You're constantly sneezing, wheezing and having to excuse yourself to go have a coughing fit in private. But, what is it about offices that just seem to harbour so many germs?

We asked in-house cleaning expert at (think Tinder but it matches you to your closest cleaner or household service instead of naff date) what it is exactly. We do spend around 40 hours in these environments every week, after all. Time to beat that cold...

10 office hygiene hazards (all the germs)

Your headset

'It’s common to see colleagues sharing headsets, but before each use, it would be wise to find your own and store them for future use. Bacteria spreads like wildfire thanks to hair fibres, sweat and earwax, potentially causing facial and ear rashes as well as lice. After one hour of use, bacteria and germs can increase 700 times! Avoid sharing if possible and wipe down weekly with an alcohol soaked cotton swab.'

Your desk

'With more than 10 million germs to be found on the average work desk, it accommodates 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. To keep your workspace clean and healthy, wipe down twice a week with an antibacterial wipe or vinegar-based solution.'

Chewing your pens

'Transfer is the huge problem to the nervous habit of chewing pens or pencils. The pen has been touching germy hands all day - perhaps that were not your own. Chewing on a pen will therefore transfer bacteria and nasty germs to your mouth and, with 1 in 5 office workers admitting to chewing on their pens, you probably want to avoid borrowing one from your colleague!'

Your keyboard

'Keyboards are notorious for harbouring bacteria, especially as we press every single key continuously for up to 8 hours each day. Skin cells, food residue and sweat mature and spread in such a small space comparatively. with more than 3,295 bacteria per square inch, shake and wipe down your keyboard weekly with a slightly damp cloth and/or blow it out with a can of air dispenser.'

Your mouse

Given that your hand can be placed on a mouse for up to 8 hours each day, they are heavily exposed to bacteria generated from sweat, food particles and dust. With 10% of office workers admitting to never cleaning their mouse, a study found that they can contain up to 1,676 microbes per square inch, a lavatory seat has only a fraction of that number! Wipe down weekly with an antibacterial wipe.'

Printer and copier

'With everyone battling it out to get their copies printed on time, the average printer and copier machine is touched up to 300 times a day - especially the interface and touchpad. This makes it a key nesting ground for nasty bacteria. Simply wipe over the surface and keypad with a PC wipe before each use.'

Water cooler

'The prime opportunity to sneak away from your desk and catch up on office politics, but a known magnet for gathering all kinds of nasty bacteria, with 2.7 million germs per square inch on the average water spigot, according to the Public Health Organisation. Screw off the water spout and place in a bowl of warm water and sliced lemon overnight for a fresh glass!'

Office fridge

'Dripping take-away containers, mouldy yoghurt pots and furry sandwiches. Bacteria thrives in such an environment and an office fridge should be cleared out every two days, especially when the average fridge contains 7,850 bacteria colony-forming units per square centimetre. Wipe down the shelves with a hard sponge and hot soapy water, and spread baking soda over stubborn stains.'


'Depending on the size of your office, the microwave can be used up to 30 times each day, harbouring a combination of meat and vegetable particles, and creating a nest for bacteria. Germs need warmth, food and moisture to multiply, and allowing the internal top to be splattered with food particles can cause a potential health risk. Soak daily with a vinegar-based solution and scrub thoroughly with a hard sponge.'

Soap dispenser

'You’ve downed your morning coffee, gone for a bathroom break and wash your hands with the soap dispenser. However, you would be wise to be wary of just how dirty the dispensers can be. A study by the University of Arizona found that a quarter of office dispensers are contaminated with faecal bacteria. If you wash your hands thoroughly, that’s fine. However, many people do not and therefore leave themselves vulnerable to infection.'

Delphine Chui