Bacteria in the workplace

A new study in the journal PLoS ONE shows that men’s offices carry a large amount of bacteria, especially when compared to their female co-workers.

The lead researcher on the study, Scott Kelley, a biology professor at San Diego State University, wrote, “Humans are spending an increasing amount of time indoors, yet we know little about the diversity of bacteria and viruses where we live, work and play.”

The study, conducted at San Diego State University, swabbed 90 offices in New York City, San Francisco and Tucson and identified 500 different forms of bacteria, most of which came from human skin, oral, nasal or intestinal cavities.

While the keyboards, mouse and desktop had significant amounts of bacteria, the most germs were found on chairs and phones.

“This study provides detailed baseline information about the rich bacterial communities in typical office settings and insight into the sources of these organisms,” Kelley said in a media release.

The difference between male and female desks could come from the fact that men are larger than women, and therefore have more surface area for bacteria. Or, it could point to a difference in hand washing habits between men and women.

The upside? We’ve all been working in offices for years without major health issues, and this bacteria hasn’t been found to put our health at risk. We all carry bacteria on us at all times.

It makes sense that one’s desk would have the biggest concentration of germs, but what about other areas in the office? Here are a few hot spots to be aware of throughout your day:

Copy Station

Adults touch their face almost 16 times an hour, and the copier gets used by everyone in the office. Be sure to sanitize after hitting those buttons.

Water Cooler

Everyone in the office shares this, and when eating or drinking is involved, you can bet the germ count goes up.

Elevator Buttons/Stair Railings

Not only are you dealing with germs from your own office, but from the entire building.

Conference Tables

Used by many different people each day, they are essentially rotating desks with that much more germs attached.

Lobby Areas

Although the furniture looks clean, if this study tells us anything, it’s that germs are highly concentrated in chairs – even more-so in those that have different people sitting in them each and every day.

Sources: PLoS ONE, News Center, Vancouver Sun, Prevention