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Gross office habits that are making you and your colleagues sick

Avoid getting your colleagues or yourself sick by following basic hygiene rules

A lot of people are still working at the office amid the Covid-19 outbreak, and it is practically a second home for many of us.

But the place where we spend at least eight hours a day is also one where we can get sick easily.

From the shared office pantry to your own desk area, it is important to follow basic hygiene rules for the sake of your health and that of your co-workers.

We look at the various microbial hot spots around the office as well as bad habits you have at work that could be costing your health.

Not cleaning your desk often

Plenty of research has shown that the average office desk is a lot dirtier than a toilet bowl, so try to wipe down your keyboard, telephone and mouse at least once or twice a week with a sanitising spray or wet wipes.

Not turning your keyboard over

Food particles like crumbs from that bag of chips you have been snacking on to dirt and dust can easily get trapped in the crevices between the keys of your keyboard.

Turn the keyboard and give it a good shake.

Alternatively, get yourself a brush or a can of compressed air to help clean out your keyboard more thoroughly.

Eating food left out for too long

Cooked food should be consumed within four hours of being cooked, so it is not wise to finish that leftover pizza from lunch.

Instead, keep leftover food in a safe container and put it in the office fridge to prevent bacteria from multiplying quickly.

Leaving food containers open in the office fridge

Amid work distractions, you might sometimes forget to seal - and not just cover - your food container.

From airborne bacteria to cross contamination, leaving food open without a seal or in a container can be harmful, especially when you are sharing the fridge with your colleagues.

And throw out anything that is expired - don't just leave it to the cleaners.

Making a mess of the microwave

We have seen some pretty nasty office microwave ovens that look like they have not been cleaned in months, judging by the build-up of dried-up sauces and grease stains.

But that is not all.

The microwave door handle and buttons are all prime breeding grounds for bacteria, especially if people didn't wash their hands before touching them.

To prevent splattering, always cover your containers with paper towels or use containers with lids with a vent that allow steam to escape.

You should also wipe away any spills and splatters after each use as an act of courtesy to the next person.

Going to work while sick

You might see it as a badge of honour to head to work while nursing a cold but spare a thought for your colleagues and take a sick day.

Not only will you not infect them with your virus, you will probably get well faster too.

Eating at your desk

Your brain, eyes and back need a break from your office computer and chair, so it is better to grab a quick lunch instead of eating it at your office desk.

Plus, you'll make less of a mess on your table.

Resting your face on your hands

This one's for those of us who have a habit of resting or leaning our face on our hands or cupping our face as we work.

Just think about it: How many different parts of the office do you come into contact with every day?

From door handles to files and folders to the shared pantry space, every surface contains bacteria that you unwittingly transfer to your face each time you touch it.

This can lead to breakouts and spread bacteria easily.

Make it a point to sit up straight so you are less inclined to lean forward, or place a mirror in front of you so you will be more aware each time you touch your face.

Forgetting to wash your mug or pitcher

Most of us own some kind of water jug or mug that we use regularly.

But how often do we bring these items to the pantry for a soap and rinse?

Bacteria thrives in water, so it is wise to wash your daily mug or cup with soap and water each time you use it, and your water pitcher at least once a week.

To really kill germs, consider rinsing with hot water - that will help sanitise even further.

Also, be sure to dry out your sponges properly and replace them as often as possible as damp sponges harbour some serious illness-causing germs.

Taking your phone to the toilet

Especially if you're doing a number two, you risk exposing yourself to faecal matter as well as germs like salmonella and E. coli.

Unless your phone is kept in your pocket or handbag at all times, even leaving it exposed on a ledge, toilet roll holder or any other surface can be dangerous, especially if you handle it after touching the flush and door lock.

This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly (