Is your Keyboard making you Sick?

dirty-keyboard 2Generally, office environments can be the cleanest area of any business. After all, any kind of pollution found in the air of factories, delivery yards, and car parks would – you would think – be stopped at the door. However, new research from Health and Safety experts shows that office environments have their own health risks, and your computer keyboard could be to blame.

Illness-causing bacteria easily live on commonly touched work surfaces such as keyboards, computer mice and office phones, and the average shared desk is a prime breeding ground for infection. In fact an average keyboard can have 200 times more bacteria than a toilet brush!

The Reality of the Shared Office.

In today’s business world, open-space offices are more likely to be shared. Part-time staff often make up a high percentage of most offices, and they all share their desk environment. You could say that everyone in a working environment is sharing each other’s home and travel environment, complete with all of the bacteria and illness that total strangers are sharing.

Many workers that spend different times of day in the administrative work-space also bring food with them, and many more forego a lunch-break to eat at their desk, making keyboards a breeding ground for bacteria.  While washing your hands between ‘the outside world’ and the closed office area would no doubt help – and has become automatic for many workers – this doesn’t protect against droplets of saliva that inevitably fall on the keyboard during talking, sneezing, and coughing.

A recent study analysed swabs obtained from the keyboards of 30 computers and found microbes on all keyboards, examples of mould, yeast, bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Micrococcus and Enterococcus. In fact, past studies have found more than 3,000 organisms per square inch on a keyboard, and more than 1,600 on a computer mouse.

When did you last Clean Up?

You can still protect yourself in a shared environment very easily, so try to perform the following tasks on an ongoing basis – we can attest to the fact that they work:

When you first start work, clean and disinfect your desk area, including phone, calculators, and especially your keyboard. You can use swabs or Q-Tips to do this. In fact, bring some cleaning materials with you as a ‘gift’ to the whole office.

Use Compressed Air to blow out any crumbs and germs that are hiding throughout the keyboard – in fact, give all grilles, ports and spaces a blast too, it will help your computer run better.

Turn your keyboard upside down, and lightly shake it to dislodge even more debris.

When you enter the office, or return from a break, wash your hands to protect yourself from others’ dirt that has been rubbed against you, and never eat at your desk.

You can also give everything a quick rub down and clean when you take extended time from the office: A few days, or vacation, to make it clean for others.

Perhaps the easiest way to ensure a clean area is to purchase a keyboard cover to cover the board when it isn’t being used by you. This can help protect against passer-by’s sneezes, coughs, and coffee spills. Many high-end keyboards come with their own dust covers, and they aren’t provided to help during initial delivery – they are for everyday use.

Finally, if you move around a lot, consider buying your own keyboard with a USB connection that can be used on any computer. Not only will this guarantee that you are only using your own equipment, it gives you the opportunity to buy one that fits your own typing style, and ergonomic requirements to make your working time more comfortable. This way you can ensure that your working time is not only clean it’s also comfortable, less stressful and more productive.