Presenteeism is a particularly potent disease that far too many of us suffer from at work. It’s what encourages so many of us to come into work even when we’re sick. That most of us, certainly those in office jobs, can quite probably work just as well from home only confounds the madness of it.
A recent study underlines the risks we’re taking, both with our own health and that of our colleagues. It reveals that the bugs and viruses we bring with us to work can rapidly spread throughout an entire building in just a few hours!
The study saw researchers strategically place a virus sample on a couple of work surfaces in an office environment. Researchers infected things such as doorknobs, workstations, even coffee machines. They did this in a range of facilities, including offices, hotels and even a health care facility.
How to make a workplace sick
The virus they ’infected’ a building with was called bacterophage MS-2, which is largely believed to be completely harmless to people (so none were harmed during the study!). It is, however, also comparable in structure to the human norovirus, which is an altogether nastier piece of work. The aim was to be able to gauge how such a harmful virus could spread through a workplace.
The research team sampled around 100 work surfaces throughout each building during the course of a day, including work stations, but also things like kettle handles, doorknobs and so on.
A truly viral workplace
The rate of spread was incredible. They found that within a couple of hours, up to 60% of the surfaces that the team sampled had been contaminated. In the office environment, the first place to become contaminated was the kitchen/coffee making area, so you can see how easily bugs can spread.
In the hotel included in the study, the bugs would travel from room to room courtesy of the ’cleaners’, which is kind of ironic. So if someone was coughing in the room next to you, the chances are by the next day those bugs will be crawling all over your room.
A better approach
The second part of the study would see staff and employees at each facility given various equipment and instructions to try and keep their buildings clean from infections. This primarily consisted of simple anti bacterial wipes that could be used to clean commonly touched surfaces once per day.
This simple step when implemented alongside decent hand hygiene was found to stop the spread of the virus by as much as 99%. The researchers went on to explain that there are something like 60 different disinfectant devices that are suitably equipped for this kind of work, so there really is no excuse not to keep your office clean.
"The results show that viral contamination of [surfaces] in facilities occurs quickly, and that a simple intervention can greatly help to reduce exposure to viruses," the researchers said.
Of course, the best strategy of all may be to not encourage/force employees to come in when they’re sick in the first place.