Are your office gadgets 'bugging' you?

The cold or flu can stop productivity just almost as fast as a virus can stop your computer.

Germs are everywhere in our environment, but this time of the year they may gang up on some of us and make us sick. Many of us are well versed in the proper techniques of handwashing, but it is important to take it a step further and take some precautions to prevent the seasonal germs from attacking us during our workday. 

Start with your work area or desk, how long has it been since you cleaned it off and wiped it down? With the beginning of cold and flu season, now is a good time to clean things up. A cold or flu can stop productivity just as fast as a computer virus can. Some viruses can even remain active on hard surfaces for a couple of days; these surfaces may include your telephone, cell phone, computer equipment, and tablets. 

How to clean your computer equipment

Begin with checking the owner’s manual for any specific cleaning instructions related to your equipment. No matter what you are cleaning, the first step is to shut down the computer and unplug it from its power source. Don’t spray cleaners directly onto electronics or let liquids seep into openings. Use soft cloths on touch screens and monitors, avoiding abrasive materials including paper towels. Using compressed gas to clean between keyboard keys will help remove dust and grime, you will then be able to wipe down the keyboard. Make sure it is completely dry before reconnecting to the computer. 

Cleaning computer mouses is important since you are touching them daily. Again, if they are wired, unplug them, if they are wireless, remove the batteries. Wipe them down with bleach-free wipes, or use an antibacterial cleaner on a soft cloth. 

Laptops need to have their keyboards and pads cleaned in the same way, again make sure the laptop is turned off. Be careful not to spill fluids into the keyboard. If you are using wipes, wring them out to remove excess fluids before using.

Cellphones and tablets are breeding grounds for germs, bacteria and viruses. They are handled, set down and exposed to all kinds of situations. Research has shown that mobile devices may have more bacteria than a toilet. Wipe them down with clean microfiber cloths and change screen protectors frequently.

Antibacterial wipes can also be used to wipe down landline phones and desk surfaces, including all edges. If you share a work area this should be done on a regular basis. Avoid eating at your workstation, take a break and eat in a designated space for consuming food.  

The American Cleaning Institute also has some tips for giving office germs a clean sweep.

If you have more questions about protecting yourself or safe practices, contact Michigan State University Extension.

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