It’s 4 p.m., you’re feeling wiped out and famished, and you know your only hope for making it through is getting your claws on a caffeine-infused substance (another skim cappuccino, perhaps?).
You’re pondering this when a scent hits you like a humid summer day: the kind of buttery, slightly nauseating smell you usually associate with an overcrowded multiplex. Your co-worker has made popcorn, and gosh darn it, they want the world to know it!
Annoying as random food smells in the office may be (gotta love that guy who eats beef curry on Thursdays!), there may be a more sinister plot at work here. Turns out, all that eating at our desks is wreaking havoc in our cubicles and turning our work zones into bacteria-laden hot messes.
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According to a new American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods Home Food Safety program survey, 27 percent of us eat breakfast at our desks, most of us chow down lunch there (62 percent) and 50 percent of us spend the rest of the day stuffing our faces with snacks in our cubes or offices. Not surprisingly, the ladies -- known for their multitasking prowess -- are the major culprits (60 percent as opposed to 42 percent of guys).
Now comes the despicable truth: Your desk may harbor 400 times more bacteria than -- wait for it -- the average toilet seat. See, 64 percent of us clean these desktops once a month, or less. And before you get all judgey, think about it: How often do you really clean your desk, especially compared to say, your kitchen counters and dining room tables? Chances are, not so much. Do you bring your lunch to work and stock it in the fridge? About one in five people admit they don’t even know if the office refrigerator is ever cleaned or not. Yikes!
But avoiding skanky fridges may not be the answer. Nearly half of those surveyed admitted to leaving their lunches that require refrigeration out of the fridge for three hours or more. But to reduce the risk of food-borne illness, "Perishable foods should not be kept out for more than two hours and need to be kept at the correct temperature of below 40 degrees," explains Toby Smithson, R.D., National Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "Food-borne illnesses like salmonella and E.coli are potential desktop demons."
So what’s a (dirty) girl to do? Obviously and contrary to all assumptions made until now, your desk is not some magical, germ-free land filled with unicorns and rainbows. “Clean from start to finish: hands, desktop and even your lunch bag after use,” says Smithson.
It may seem fastidious, but taking out a few minutes once or twice a week to wipe down surfaces with an antibacterial agent (most household cleaners will do) should do the trick, and don’t forget areas where germs convene like your phone and computer keyboard. And hey, you might even try placing a napkin on your desk before you park your sushi there, just sayin’.