Germs are everywhere and they can travel from surface to surface in various ways. One of the best ways to stop them spreading is by using hygienic surfaces in the workplace, says Catherine Moss of Geaves.
Some surfaces see more exposure than others and are more at risk of getting bacteria on them. Every interaction with a surface leaves oils, food particles, and grime. Germs thrive on these leftovers. Think of door handles, information desks, handrails, coffee makers – and any other commonly used surface.
There are about 21,000 germs per square inch on your desk and an estimated 25,000 germs per square inch on an office telephone. That’s over 400 times the amount of germs on the average toilet.
With these skin-crawling numbers out of the way, it's time to combat the problem by using more hygienic surfaces and better hygiene practices.
An unhygienic office leads to unhealthy workers, which can have negative implications for your business such as more workers taking sick leave and monetary losses. So here is a list of common office materials and their hygiene ratings.
Wood: It might be somewhat surprising that some types of wood, such as pine and oak, have natural antibacterial properties. But a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin in the US found that wood can stop the multiplication of dangerous bacteria. Tests show that wood can kill 99 per cent of living bacteria, naturally, within 24 hours.
Glass: Glass is manufactured via an automated process making it 100 per cent free from human bacteria. It is not porous, meaning that nothing can get into it or come out of it. Glass is an ideal material to use for the office as it can easily be maintained and disinfected, and comes at a great price point.
Laminates: Laminates are an excellent choice for hygienic surfaces with one problem. They can be scratched, leading to bacteria spreading. If the surface is damaged, bacteria can find their way into these damaged spots and become a nuisance to clean.
Sheet steel: An excellent choice for office surfaces as studies have shown this material to kill 99.9 per cent of harmful bacteria that cause illness, in around two hours - making it one of the best surface materials for a post-Covid office.
So which materials should you use for your post-Covid office? Studies have indicated that any surface made of copper is extremely effective in preventing the spread of bacteria. Stainless steel and glass are a perfect choice of surface to use as they can be disinfected and leave no bacteria behind.
Which work surfaces are the easiest to clean?
Flat surfaces that are accessible such as desks, kitchen countertops and windows are always the easiest to clean. The more complex a surface is – whether or not there are many obstacles built into a surface that may obstruct cleaning the surface thoroughly – the greater the challenge in keeping it clean, as bacteria can collect in the smallest openings.
Certain surfaces are often easier to clean and maintain than others and the ranking system we have put in place rates each surface based on its ability to be cleaned sufficiently while taking into account the selected material's overall cleanliness upkeep rating.
Our results show that non-porous and flat, wipeable surfaces are rated highest as these are easily cleaned and have natural properties that allow bacteria to be killed quickly and effectively. Surfaces such as copper, glass, and steel are rated higher due to their smooth and often clear surfaces. Surfaces like these are much easier to clean as you can identify any dirt or general issues on the worktops just by looking at them.
Other materials such as laminate and wood are natural breeding grounds for bacteria and can be damaged easily, allowing dirt and bacteria to grow in areas that are much harder to clean. Subsequently, these work surface materials are rated lower.
Clinics, hospitals, and medical testing facilities, where cleanliness is important for employees and patients should always have a hygiene rating of 5/5. However, all companies should make cleanliness a top priority and choose surface types that help to keep their staff safe from illness.
Catherine Moss is marketing manager at surface solutions provider Geaves