Suffered from a cold lately? Have a headache or itchy eyes? Maybe you keep picking up the office bug? It could be as a result of your work environment. No matter how clean your office seems on the surface, it could be making you sick.
Let’s start with the air you breathe at work. It’s probably air conditioned(and hence recycled). According to the US Environmental Protection Agency , while we’re making great strides in reducing the effects of outdoor pollutants, the air inside our work places is less than desirable. The result? Sick workers and ‘sick buildings’ that infect the individuals who work in them, with sick days costing companies thousands in lost productivity every year. Employees who work in high-rise buildings are particularly at risk of breathing in rising carbon monoxide as are those who work in close quarters with printers and other machines that emit ozone and use strong chemicals. Not to mention what can lurk in an air conditioning unit that hasn’t been serviced in a while.
If you work in a building with sealed windows, you could be exposed to ‘trapped’ air such as cigarette smoke from a smoking area, construction dust from building alterations, or residue from cleaning products that have been sprayed on (but not removed from) your work station. Not to mention that most companies don’t have enough air circulating indoors or access to outdoor spaces.
Itchy throat? Besides the air you breathe, there might be a number of other causes of illness in your workplace. Carpets that aren’t cleaned properly can harbour dust and dust mites which can cause allergies to flare up. Have a close look at your communal kitchen next time you’re making your lunch in there. When was the last time the fridge was cleaned out or utensils sterilised? Dirty surfaces can result in mould that has serious health side-effects.
So what can you do?
There are a number of ways to improve the health of your office space, to ensure it is as clean and safe as possible for the people who work there:
- Proper ventilation is a must. This means functioning windows if they are meant to open, properly ventilated rooms in the case of air conditioning, and clean air vents. In an office block with sealed windows, all air conditioning units should be functioning perfectly and be cleaned and serviced regularly.
- Take good care of your office plants. You might think having indoor plants is helping you to feel better but if they are dusty, over watered, or dying, they won’t improve the air in your space – they might even have mould!
- Wash your hands! This may sound simple but not everyone takes the time to properly wash their hands on a regular basis. Remember – it’s still one of the best defences against flus and colds.
- Keep food stored properly and make sure to clean out the fridge often. Food that is left out attracts pests and an over-full fridge won’t function properly.
- Hire professional cleaners to make sure that each area in your office is in tip-top shape. Every room should be properly cleaned on a regular basis, from the kitchen floor to the printer room, from communal tools to your personal work station.