How Do Viruses Spread Quickly Within the Office?
From bustling cities to rural communities, we have businesses and office buildings in every area of the United States.
In the current day, it’s hard to escape working in these places. Most people don’t live off the land and don’t spend their working hours outside. Instead, a majority of the population are cooped up in a small office cubicle. They may lack some needed natural light, instead stuck with heating and ventilation systems that don’t purify the air.
But, do these conditions breed viruses in our offices?
What Are the Perfect Conditions for a Virus to Spread?
Air temperature is key for bacteria. In general, cold air kills germs while warm air incubates them. These factors, combined with those mentioned above, play a part in how quickly viruses spread within the office.
But that’s not the whole picture, and there’s more to the story of how germs spread in your office.
Depending on the kind of surface the germs land on, they can last from a few hours to three days on different surfaces. For example, viruses are on metal surfaces for only a few hours. But if pathogens land on plastic, the virus could linger and survive for much longer.
There is plenty of each surface within the workplace.
Metal surfaces include some refrigerators. The fridge can harbor the most germs from everyone touching the handle. Other metal surfaces include doorknobs, faucets, as well as the toaster oven, and eating and cooking utensils.
It may also be hard to count the endless plastic surfaces in an office. Even at your desk, that might include the computer mouse, keyboard, stapler, scissors and many other items. As you move about the office, plastic surfaces are in even more abundance. The break room might have a plastic coffee pot or microwave. The copier is likely has both a plastic exterior and buttons that often have hands on them.
These surfaces are more likely to spread germs quickly in the office, even more so than airborne bacteria, because the bacteria may be airborne for only a few seconds. But, bacteria that lands on a surface doesn’t die so quickly. They survive much longer and employees and clients touch these surfaces directly, and indirectly.
How Can Direct and Indirect Touch Spread Viruses?
An excellent example of this is when the break room is full of people.
You open the refrigerator, pull out your lunch and put it in the microwave. Then, you open the drawer and take out a fork to eat your lunch. Before you even opened the refrigerator, you have to take into consideration those who opened it before you and if any of them are or were recently sick.
Another scenario of indirect transmission of viruses is when your manager has a meeting with a client or customer. They arrive and touch the handle to your building; then they move the chair in the conference room as they pull it out to sit down. But, they place their hands on the table while they wait.
In the meantime, you touch the handle of the cupboard to take out the mug, then the coffee pot and pour them a cup of coffee. You bring a pitcher of cream and sugar to them when you deliver the hot beverage to them. Then, the customer touches the items you brought not knowing that they are exposing themselves to bacteria that have been on surfaces for a few hours.
In this short process, you touched approximately 30 to 50% of the germs and pathogens on those surfaces. At this rate, viruses can spread at an alarming rate. More than 50% of the employees may become infected with the virus.
How to Keep From Spreading These Germs?
Now, not all germs are bad for us.
In fact, some studies show that when we’re exposed to a virus, our immune system becomes stronger in the event of future exposure. But, that doesn’t mean that you don’t take precautionary measures when it comes to preventing illness in the office.
That’s why many businesses encourage flu shots during this season. They also ask employees to stay home if they currently have a virus.
Some of the best ways to prevent spreading viruses within the office is to use hand sanitizer whenever you touch a contaminated object or surface. The practice is even more helpful if you know that different coworkers have been ill.
Another proactive step is to use a tissue or paper towel when turning on the faucet and opening the bathroom door. You may also want to keep antiviral wipes at your desk.
Did you know that research revealed employees could reduce the transmission of germs by up to 90% when they remember to take these preventative steps?
Are you looking for other ways to decrease viruses in the office? Passport Health can help! Give us a call at or fill out a contact form for more information.
Written for Passport Health by Sabrina Cortes. Sabrina is a freelance writer with a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgian Court University. She currently lives in the Smokey Mountains of western North Carolina.