Just How Disgusting Is Your Office Kitchen?

The dirtiest place in any office is not the bathroom—it’s the office kitchen. Or, so was revealed after a recent survey of more than 280 samples from 70 office kitchens. The researchers discovered that 75 percent of office kitchen surfaces are alarmingly unhygienic and contained more bacteria than a feminine sanitary bin.

Why Are Office Kitchens So Filthy?

Shared office kitchens are usually very busy places. People are coming in and touching utensils and cooking equipment all the time. Office workers are too busy to clean up the mess when there’s a spill in the microwave, or to do the dishes after lunch. With deadlines to meet and high volumes of work to churn out, who cares about the spilt soup in the fridge?

Putrefying food particles and spills provide a hospitable environment for bacteria to inhabit and breed. Unsurprisingly, then, the research shows surfaces in a common office kitchen hold dangerously high concentrations of coliforms—bacteria found in faeces. The research was carried out by a business firm, but comes at the heels of another University of Arizona study that showed a sick worker could contaminate half of the commonly touched office surfaces by lunch time.

The most commonly and heavily contaminated surfaces include microwave door handles, kettle handles, washing boards, fridge-freezer handles, stove tops, and teacup or mug handles.

How to Maintain a Hygienic Kitchen

The shortest route for bacteria to get into your food goes through your office kitchen. Implementing a hygienic regime in the kitchen is easier said than done. People just don’t care about cleaning when they have other targets to be accountable for. You might need to be consistent and take a number of steps in order to restore sanity to the kitchen and cut down the risks of infections.

  • Assign Responsibility: Make someone responsible for cleanliness in the kitchen. However, this may give everyone the excuse to make as much mess as they want, as cleanliness would be someone else’s responsibility. Alternatively, you can make a roster and rotate the responsibility among all the people who share the kitchen, with a different person acting as the kitchen in-charge every day.
  • Ask People to Wash Hands:Keep a soap or hand sanitizer and paper towels as the minimum personal-hygiene essentials in the kitchen. Ask people to wash their hands with soap each time they enter the kitchen, before they touch anything. Paste the warning in bold letters at visible places—WASH HANDS.
  • Regular Cleaning and Disinfection: Brief your house staff to clean and sanitize the kitchen every day, and pay special attention to the microwave, stove-top, washing board, all handles, and other commonly touched surfaces. Wipe the handles and other surfaces with an environment-friendly disinfectant every day, preferably after work. Spilled food particles would get rotten by the next morning and bacteria would have multiplied by the thousands.
  • Educate Your Employees: Educate people to pay attention to hygiene in kitchen. You can reach out to them via Email or your company blog and talk about the dangers of a dirty kitchen. Give them tips for maintaining hygiene in kitchen and establish that it’s something that you want in your office’s culture. Keep conditioning people and their attitudes will change over time.

A revolting kitchen is the sign of a sick office, and indicates workers’ unwillingness to clean up after them and carelessness about hygiene. Improving the kitchen hygiene may lead you to take steps for uplifting people’s motivation level.

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Dr Garry J McCLean is a health and safety expert writing for The Workplace Depot – he has an extremely clean kitchen!