• Should I eat at my Desk?

    I eat at my desk – we all do it don’t we?

    I know I shouldn’t eat at my desk, what with Psychologists, Nutritionists and other health professionals telling us it’s bad. We should get out and have a walk, clear our minds, get some exercise, but are there any other things to think about?

    I have carried out a number of surveys over the years where we have swabbed desks, keyboards and (computer) mice to find unsavoury levels of bacteria on surfaces. Of course, the things to watch out for are pathogens, such as E.coli O157, norovirus and cold and flu viruses, which can collect on surfaces if people carrying the organisms don’t wash their hands.

    The Journey to the Centre of the Toilet!

    Imagine the journey of pathogens from hands that have not been washed after using the toilet. They go to your desk via the kitchen, fridge, kettle, cup cupboard, coffee and sugar containers, milk bottle, stair rail and finally arrive at your ‘lunch table’.

    The 2nd Health Protection Agency Infectious Intestinal Diseases Report estimates that 16% of us carry norovirus (many of us would not have had any symptoms so wouldn’t know). If we don’t wash our hands after using the toilet, then this can be carried to other places, including the office desk if we are hot-desking.

    So what can we do to help prevent the spread of disease and make the office a nicer place (even if we don’t eat at our desks)?

    Watch this video for more information about the journey of the germ.

    Top tips for office hygiene:

    • Wash hands after using the toilet
    • Clean your desk using an anti-bacterial or anti-viral product if you are hot-desking and particularly if you have a cold
    • Dispose of tissues after use – don’t leave them on the desk!
    • Use anti-viral hand gel
    • If you have to eat at your desk – wash your hands before you eat if you desk-share, move the keyboard away to remove crumbs – and clean up afterwards!
    • If you use the office fridge, remove any out of date food (before it walks out on its own)!

    How Clean is your Desk?

    A little test – tip your keyboard upside down and tap lightly – what comes out? Of course you can’t see the germs, but this may give you an idea of dirt levels. If you want to test the cleanliness more scientifically, contact me and we can arrange for some swabbing!

    One issue that we have found that can arise from desk lunching in offices is that if people spill crumbs and keep food in their desks, it can encourage mice and coackroaches – be warned!

    As for whether it is healthy, apart from the germ issue, many people use their work computer to do on-line shopping or follow social media in their lunch break, so whilst not actually moving around, at least they are getting a break from work!

    If your office is on an industrial estate with a busy road next door, it can’t be very tempting to get outside and have a walk.

    If possible, I am sure it is healthier to get out for a while for a break, but my guess is that after the brisk walk we should encourage, workers will still be going back to their desks for a cup of tea and their sandwich!

    However, I will leave that to the psychologists to mull over.


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  • Jane says:Reply
    6th February 2019 at 9:17 am

    I have worked in places where desks are shared and you never knew who was using it before you. I always wiped down the keyword an mouse I would be using with some anti bac wipes. I feel in facilities like this the wipes should be provided for you? Nobody but me seemed to be concerned about their keyboard or mouse being clean and this baffled me.

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      30th March 2020 at 8:14 am

      I agree, when hot desking, you should clean your desk before working – when we all go back to the office, maybe hygiene will be higher on the agenda.