asian woman staring blankly at her office monitor

Dos and Don’ts

Let’s begin with some simple office dos and don’ts. For more personal hygiene tips that go beyond the office, check out our article on common hygiene mistakes.

  1. Do clean your workspace regularly. Phones, desks, keyboards and computer mice are some of the places where germs are most likely to reside. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean these surfaces at least once a week.
  1. Don’t eat at your desk. We often think we can save a couple of minutes by lunching at our desks. The truth is that crumbs and other food bits can get lodged inside the keyboard, which then becomes an area for bacteria to grow. In a study by the University of Arizona[1], it was discovered that the typical worker’s desk contained hundreds of times more bacteria than a toilet seat. The bottom line is if you eat at your desk, you’re more likely to get sick, and instead of saving a few minutes, you may end up losing even more.

  2. Do change out of your gym clothes. If you exercise before work or during your lunch break, it is a good practice to change out of your gym clothes — especially if you do not take a shower. Remember, bacteria love to breed in moist areas, such as your sweaty clothes.

  3. Do keep a bin with a lid by your desk. If you blow your nose, throw your used tissues into a closed bin. This will help contain the spread of germs. If all your bins are uncovered, find the nearest communal bin with a lid to throw your tissues.
  1. Do keep your pantry clean. Even if you have a regular office cleaner that clears your pantry, it’s still a good idea to wash dirty utensils after you use them. Leaving food or unwashed plates in the sink is a sure-fire way to build a breeding ground for germs. It’s also probably a good idea to have your own cup and be personally responsible for its cleanliness.

  2. Don’t leave expired food in the office fridge. With shared fridges, it’s common to have expired food left inside for months. While it might be an honest mistake that food items were forgotten, it’s still good to have a pantry policy that lets anyone clear expired food out of the fridge. You may also want to empower your cleaning personnel to have a weekly cleanse, as part of an HR directive.

  3. Do wash your hands regularly with soap and water. A fairly obvious but often neglected habit — hand washing with soap and water — has been proven to prevent many diseases. Do wash your hands with these techniques before and after meals, after touching shared surfaces, after blowing your nose and after using the toilet. If you do not have access to hand washing facilities, carry an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with you.

What to Do When You’re Sick


Going to work when you’re sick does not make you a more valuable employee. Instead of reducing operational downtime, sick employees at work often result in even more disruptions as infectious diseases are spread around and cause an epidemic in the office.

The first thing to do when you are sick is to see a doctor. If the doctor feels your condition is infectious, you may be better off staying at home to rest, or work from home if you must.

Common diseases such as the flu often have an incubation period of up to seven days or more that continues to put others around you at risk of being infected. So, even if you’re feeling better and have returned to work, remember to wear a mask to contain the spread of infection. Remember to also use tissues when you are sneezing or coughing, and be extra mindful about washing your hands during this period.

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  1. Williams, D. (2006, Nov 13). Is your desk making you sick?. CNN.
    Retrieved July 2016 from