How Pathogens Spread in the Workplace: Reducing Your Employee Sick Days

If you manage a small business, then you know that increased productivity and reduced absenteeism are key. One way to
reduce absenteeism is to make your workplace clean and germ-free so that the number of sick days taken by employees decreases. However, keeping germs from spreading throughout the office is harder than you might think. According to, one study showed that despite having workers in relative isolation (e.g. cubicles and offices), half of the office’s surfaces and half of the coworkers tested positive for the artificial virus that was planted by researchers. Take a look at where many pathogens spread and how to mitigate their effects.


WDFThe Dirtiest Areas in Your Office Aren’t Where You Think They Are


If someone asked you where the most germs reside in your office building, you might say the restroom; or, if you were asked which object was the dirtiest, you might say your keyboard. You wouldn’t be completely wrong—those places are dirty. However, the dirtiest area in most offices is actually the break room—specifically the sink area. reported a study in which the researchers swabbed different areas of the office to analyze adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a molecule found in organic material, so the more ATP researchers found on a surface, the more likely bacteria was growing there. The research found that most of the germs in the office were on the following:


  • faucet handles in the break room sink
  • microwaves
  • refrigerator door handles


What Can You Do to Mitigate Their Effects?


Faucet HandlesBlurred-Kitchen

Since many workers want to use their own water bottle and stay hydrated throughout the day, the sink and faucet handles may be seeing lots of usage. However, the break room sink is also a place where employees usually wash dishes or leave old sponges that can contain bacteria. Instead, you may want to invest in a filtration product that is solely for drinking water since some use activated oxygen to kill microbiological contaminants. These kinds of products can also have recessed nozzles so your employees’ water bottle spouts don’t further spread germs.



Like faucet handles, microwave handles and their interiors see a lot of activity. One of the most important things you can do to reduce the spread of germs is to require employees to cover their food with an FDA-approved microwave cover. Since uncovered food can easily splatter, the leftover organic material can breed mold and bacteria. The microwave cover should reduce this kind of mess, and it should be safer than microwaving items with other plastic covers, since chemicals can leach into the food. If you require your employees to rinse the cover once they are done and wipe down the microwave door handles with disinfecting wipes at the end of the day, this should reduce pathogens in this area.


Refrigerator Handles

Like the microwave door, you should make sure to wipe down the refrigerator door handles with disinfection wipes at the end of the day. Stock up and leave a bottle of wipes around the office and in the break room so employees won’t forget. Along with additional wipes, consider leaving ample tissues and some hand sanitizer in an easy-to-find spot. If employees are using these items regularly, handles will be less likely to hold bacteria and viruses. Lastly, encourage employees to start washing their hands after using the break room, not just when they use the restroom.


As you can see, many of these trouble areas are easily remedied. And even though the study found at was disheartening in how quickly pathogens spread, the same study did have some promising results. It said that if employees follow good practices—like the ones previously mentioned—offices can actually reduce infection from exposure to contaminants by about 90%!