Retail Health & Wellness – Beware Of Workplace Cooties

Wednesday Retail Wisdom: Retail Health – Beware Of Workplace Cooties

Once a week I like to post something light-hearted and fun for people to read. This week I chose to do a little poking around about germs because there are SO many at work right now. So – enjoy!

We are in the throes of winter weather and people are sneezing, coughing, stuffy and most work spaces are, basically, a petri dish of cooties. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)up to 80% of all infections are spread by hand contact with contaminated surfaces and direct human contact. So, most of the places we touch and come in contact with are likely harborers of germs.” and per the National Health Interview Survey, “influenza alone is responsible for about 200 million days of reduced productivity and 75 million days of work absence annually.” [Source: South University].

According to the Telegraph UK: Workers took, on average, 4.4 days off for sickness in 2013, a decrease of 1.9 days over a decade. Does it actually mean we’re any healthier? No. It means we are working when we know we are sick and actively bring those germs to work. From the author of the book, The Art of Being Ill: “By struggling on and on, you’ll have a low-grade illness for about 10 days, or you’ll have to take time off later because you’ve become really ill,” says Jill Sinclair.

Germs In The Workplace Statistics

  • A typical desk has up to 10,000,000 bacteria [ewwww!]
  • 60% of office workers have had a cold in the last three months
  • Virus goes from from door to half the office in just four hours [Source: WSJ]
  • Women’s work spaces tend to have more bacteria as they generally have more lotions, tissues and snack items around than men do. [Source: SF Gate]
  • Water fountains are actually less germy than office water coolers [Source: Food Network’s Kitchen Detectives]
  • 83% of employees fear being punished for missing work
  • 60% of employees go to work when they’re sick
    • 30% of those sick workers said they do so because they are too important to their business’s operation to stay home
  • A recent study from Queen’s University found it costs employers twice as much in productivity losses for employees who come to work while sick than for those who stay at home [Source: The Globe and Mail]

Here are some of the Germiest Things In The Workplace:


  • Telephones – Scientists say office telephones can hold more than 25,000 germs per square inch. To prevent the spread of germs when using the phone, users should wipe off handsets and keypads with sanitizing wipes after using them and periodically throughout the day.
  • Elevator buttons – Hundreds of people use the elevators of office buildings every day. Protect yourself against dirty elevator buttons by using an elbow, knuckle, or writing utensil instead of fingertips to push the buttons if you can.
  • Water fountains – The spigot on a public water fountain can harbor as many as 2.7 million bacteria per square inch, scientists say. A good alternative to using the workplace water fountain is bringing water from home in a sports bottle.
  • Computer keyboards – It has been reported that keyboards may have more than 200 times as many bacteria as a toilet seat. Shared computers are especially hazardous. Using disinfecting wipes that remove dirt, dust, dander, and biological contaminants are good for cleaning keyboards. Since wet materials can interfere with the functionality of keyboards, it’s a good idea to check with the IT department for recommendations on which products to use.
  • Bathrooms – Workplace bathrooms are some of the germiest places. E. coli and fecal toxins are often found on nearly every surface in the bathroom, including doors and faucet handles. To prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, use paper towels to turn faucets on and off and to open the door before exiting.

Secrets To Managing Germs In Your Retail Work Space

[Source:  Huffington Post]

  • Keeps hand-santizing wipes accessible at all times: According to the CDC, hand-sanitizing wipes are actually more effective than gels. Stock your desk drawer with wipes containing at least 60 percent alcohol content and you’ll keep your hands cleaner than if you had freshly washed with hot, soapy water.
  • Carry Sanitizing Gels With You: When you’re away from your desk, rely on gels to rid your hands of the germs you’d otherwise return to your workstation. Frequent and liberal use is also important: Many experts warn that if your hands are dry within 15 seconds, you haven’t maximized the gel’s germ-killing potential. Rub your hands for a full 30 seconds.
  • Actually Use Sanitizing Surface Wipes: Finding a heavy-duty sanitizing wipe without the heavy-duty chemical smell is the key to actually using them.
  • Personalize Your Sterilizing Arsenal: If you’re working from a non-polyurethaned wooden desk, you’ll need to get non-damaging sprays. Clorox makes an Anywhere Sanitizing Spray, or you can make your own with three tablespoons of white distilled water to one cup of water. To prevent marking, dry thoroughly.
  • Clean Your Keyboard: Fewer than 10% of us clean keyboards regularly. With the right tools, however, sanitizing your keyboard can be easy. Perform the following regimen weekly: stock your desk with cotton swabs, cleaning solution, a lint-free cloth and a can of compressed air. Use the compressed air to blow dust out from the nooks between your keys and run over the keyboard with the lint-free cloth. To sanitize, lightly dip your cotton swab in the solution (isopropyl alcohol works well) and run along the edge of each key. Finally, give the whole keyboard a thorough wipe down with a cloth moistened with the solution.
  • Kick Your Eye-Rubbing Habit: With a shocking 80% of infectious diseases transmitted through touch, hands are certainly the number one vector of colds and flus. Some studies put the number of times workers touch their faces at once every four minutes.
  • Clean Your Hands: Obvious, but crucial. Hand washing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infectious disease. And studies repeatedly prove that while 96% of people report regular and rigorous hand-washing, the number that actually do is lower than that.
  • Keep Vitamins at Your Desk: Studies show adults who take vitamin C tend to get sick less often — and when they do, they avoid nasty complications and heal more quickly.

If you are not a fan of the scented or sticky store bought hand sanitizers, here is a DIY [very easy] way to make your own with your own preferred scents:

Homemade Hand Sanitizer Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup 99% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) or ethanol
  • 1/3 cup aloe vera gel
  • 8-10 drops essential oil, optional (such as lavender, vanilla, peppermint, grapefruit)
  • bowl and spoon
  • funnel
  • recycled liquid soap or hand sanitizer bottle

Simply mix the ingredients together and then use the funnel to pour them into the bottle. Screw the pump back onto the bottle and you’re ready to go. The active ingredient in this hand sanitizer recipe is the alcohol, which needs to comprise at least 60% of the product in order to be an effective disinfectant. In addition to adding fragrance to your hand sanitizer, the essential oil you choose may also help protect you against germs. For example, thyme and clove oil have antimicrobial properties. If you are using antimicrobial oils, only use a drop or two, since these oils tend to be very powerful and might irritate your skin. Other oils, such as lavender or chamomile, may help soothe your skin.

You can also make your own wipes – click here for the recipe.

Why Is Awareness of This Important?

According to the CDC, Workplace health programs can increase productivity.  In general, healthier employees are more productive.

  • Healthier employees are less likely to call in sick or use vacation time due to illness
  • Companies that support workplace health have a greater percentage of employees at work every day
  • Because employee health frequently carries over into better health behavior that impact both the employee and their family (such as nutritious meals cooked at home or increased physical activity with the family), employees may miss less work caring for ill family members as well
  • Similarly, workplace health programs can reduce presenteeism — the measurable extent to which health symptoms, conditions, and diseases adversely affect the work productivity of individuals who choose to remain at work34

The cost savings of providing a workplace health program can be measured against absenteeism among employees and reduced overtime to cover absent employees.

Stay Healthy!




Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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