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Germs and the Office Equal a Costly, Sickly Mix

Thanks for coming to work, said no one ever

As if facing work dead in the face on a deadline-heavy Monday in the cold dead of winter wasn’t scary enough …

Welcome To Germville, USA (AKA: Your Office).

The average American office houses a thousand times more germs than its computers house emails and a sometimes unrelenting avalanche of health threats. Germs lurk on nearly every surface we touch in the office, from our keyboards to our phones to the bathroom door to the water cooler. Even Mr. Clean shivers at the thought of the galaxy of germs residing in the office.

And the First Health Rule of Economics 101 is simple: A Profitable Office Is A Healthy Office, A Sick Office Is An Office Losing Money. The Centers For Disease control estimate workplace illnesses cost the U.S. Economy $225 billion annually – that number equates to sickly $1,685 per employee.

“The health and safety of the American workforce is vital to the U.S. economy,” said L. Casey Chosewood, M.D., M.P.H., and director, Office for Total Worker Health at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at CDC, told

Just how germ-riddled is the American workplace?

Consider these bacteria-heavy facts:

  • The average desk houses up to 10 million germs.
  • Telephones dial with up to 25,000 germs for every square inch
  • Keyboards can type with up to 3,500 germs on them
  • The average computer mouse boasts 1,500 germs for every click
  • We won’t even get to the germ nation living in the bathroom. Think the sky has a lot of stars? The bathroom houses as many germs. All you really need to know is tread carefully in the bathroom, and wash your hands after every visit.

And every germ molecule brings a threat of cold, flu, and worse, an absent, idle employee. The epidemic quickly morphs from lost productivity to illness to absenteeism to burnt money.

“There’s a reason that everyone in the U.S. is worried about the economy and health care,” Thomas Parry, president of the Integrated Benefits Institute, which represents some of the nation’s biggest employers, including Google, Microsoft and Caterpillar, told “These are two fundamental issues that are tightly coupled through health’s impact on productivity, and shape our standards of living. Illness costs this country hundreds of billions of dollars, and this should serve as a wake-up call for both candidates and employers to invest in the health of workers, for the sake of the people and the benefit of U.S. business.”

American workers have to take extra personal health safety measures during flu season because the American work health keeps many sick employees on the job. A NSF International poll found 26 American workers go to work sick. Of those sick workers, 40 percent said they come to work sick because of deadlines and because they have to much work to make up after a sick day.

“The best thing you can do to avoid getting sick at work is to take defensive measures,” said Rob Donofrio, Ph.D., a microbiologist at NSF International. “Proper handwashing with soap and warm water is still, by far, the best way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.”

For employers, the essential key to keeping a healthy work place during the germy danger of flu season is maintaining a clean workplace. Housekeeping staffs are the most under-rated weapon in keeping workplace germs under control.

“Disinfecting common areas like the office kitchen or eating area, copy machine and printer can be crucial to keeping germs at bay,” Donofrio said.

Employers can fight back against germs’ fury by investing in a smart company hygiene program.

B4 Brands’ comprehensive line of hand hygiene products – from Avant Instant Hand Sanitizer to Aterra Foaming Hand Soap – can keep workplaces healthy, happy, productive, environmentally comfortable, and profitable during the cold, germy days of winter.

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