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January 2018

The modern office: coffee shop hygiene

Written by Nicole Horne
Workplace Hygiene, Cleanliness and Hygiene

Many companies these days are embracing remote working and flexible working spaces. In a National Office Statistics study, it was found that 14% of employees work exclusively from home as a “base” while they are working from different locations.

These statistics aren’t unexpected, since the rise of the “the coffee shop worker” (as I like to call it) has definitely been more apparent the last couple of years. With wifi being freely available - allowing people to video conference, access files from the cloud and work on the go - traditional office space isn’t always necessary.

One of the most popular choices for remote working, other than working from home, is coffee shops. Visit any coffee shop during the day and you’ll be sure to spot people working away on their laptops, tablets and mobile phones

Hygiene in coffee shops and other remote working spaces

While restaurants are focused on ensuring clean and hygienic environments - especially in their kitchen spaces - what about seating areas that receive a lot of traffic, or are occupied for long hours at a time?

Here’s a scenario:

John visits his favourite cafe and sits close to a plug point to charge his laptop, since he will be spending several hours here. He will be ordering coffee (like many other digital workers do to fuel their brains), have lunch and possibly a few snacks in between. He’ll visit the restroom, and make some calls on his phone and so forth.

Now, think about all John’s touchpoints; the table, chair, laptop, its keyboard, phone, bathroom handle, belt buckle etc. The table could have been wiped with the same cloth that has wiped other tables and possibly not been disinfected, thus causing cross contamination with other surfaces. His laptop is also a germ hotspot. He’ll be eating and snacking right over his laptop’s keyboard which captures food debris. Furthermore, his phone is also exposed to bacteria from other surfaces. Let’s not forget his hands, which are a vehicle for germ transport, taking bacteria home with him.

With this in mind, we recommend you have a look at this blog post: 5 ways to keep your laptop clean

The above scenario is applicable to any other environments from which people choose to remotely work; such as airports, hotel lobbies, malls and libraries. Essentially, in spaces that are frequented regularly, a ‘hot-desk’ situation occurs as multiple people use the same desks, tables and seating areas.

Hot-desking in public spaces

In a previous blog, To hot-desk or not-to-hot-desk that is the question, we talked about a recent study Initial performed, where swabbing desks in an office environment showed an 18% increase in microbiological activity when office workers switched desks every day. This study also found that fixed desk use by the same colleagues have 32% less microbiological activity than shared (hot) desks.

If we apply this principle to public environments - such as coffee shops - which see even more activity, we can speculate that microbiological stats would be much higher than in an office environments with a set amount of coworkers.

I keep wondering; who sat at that table before I did, did they sneeze onto the table or did they wash their hands before using the salt and pepper shakers? Obviously, we can’t live like Bubble Boy and we will be exposed to a certain number of germs everyday (not all bad!), but the key here is to keep in mind that if everyone practices good personal hygiene, and tables are disinfected on a regular basis, we will all survive.

Coffee shop hygiene: for visitors to keep in mind

  • Wash your hands after visiting the bathroom and before and after eating.
  • Hand washing isn’t always possible (if we don’t want to leave our belongings unattended), so ensure that you keep hand sanitiser available.
  • If you are wary about coming into contact with public surfaces, wipe them down with antibacterial wipes.
  • Breaks are important. Rather than eating and working, set your laptop aside to prevent food debris getting stuck underneath your laptop’s keys.
  • Be considerate; leave your space clean and if you have wipes available, be sure to give the surface a good wipe before you leave.
Hygiene tips for coffee shop owners to keep in mind
  • Ensure that cloths that are used to wipe down tables and other regularly frequented surfaces are disinfected on a daily basis and in between wiping different surfaces.
  • Ensure that a sanitising solution is used to wipe tables, counters and other surfaces, such as door handles and buzzers down with.
  • Place posters in bathrooms to remind visitors to wash their hands frequently. Reinforce this message with staff so hygiene is top of mind at all times.
  • Ask to wipe your patron’s table after they have had a meal.
  • A good idea is to keep refresher towels on tables so they are freely available for your customer’s use.

If we all practice good hand hygiene principles - be it in coffee shops or at the office - it makes shared spaces much more pleasant places to make use of, and keeps cross contamination to a minimum.

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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