Watch the Clock
If you pack a lunch that includes perishable food items—meat and cheese sandwiches, leftovers, salads or dairy foods—don't let more than two hours pass from the time you make your lunch at home to the time you put it in the office refrigerator. The same rule applies if you go out for lunch and bring back carryout or leftovers.
The average office refrigerator is cleaned out only once every six weeks, even though most perishable foods spoil within three to five days. The office refrigerator should be cleaned out weekly, but no one wants to take on the responsibility, right? The solution is to assign each person who uses the refrigerator to a specific week in which they are responsible for pitching and purging. Anything left at closing time Friday is tossed out. Post the weekly delegations on the refrigerator door, and if it's a disaster come Monday morning, everyone will be able to determine who's to blame.
Splattered and scattered for all to see—the spaghetti that exploded in the microwave, the chicken soup that boiled over on the stove, the cream-filled doughnut remains on the counter—kitchen messes like these all spell danger. Keep anti-bacterial wipes readily available so team members can wipe up their spills and mishaps as a first line of defense.
But why not wipe up spills with the community dishrag or sponge? These are filled with germs and bacteria, which only spread around when you wipe up a mess. To keep a sponge or dishrag safe, run it through the dishwasher daily, or dampen it with water and microwave it on high for three minutes before using.
At the very least, you can keep your own beloved cubicle clean. Your desktop, keyboard and phone are ideal for bacteria and germ contamination—especially if you eat while using any of these devices. But don't forget all the other people who touch your desk area or sneeze on your belongings.
The best way to control the spread of germs is to clean your cubicle once daily with an anti-bacterial spray or wipes. Coffee pots are generally safe due to the high temperature, but be careful with your personal coffee mug. Clean it daily with soap and water, but if you use dairy creamers, you should wash it even more often.
The Social Scene
Nearly three out of five Americans work in an office where food is left out to be shared with others. If the food is perishable, find out how long it has been out before you dig in. If the food has been out for more than two hours, pass on the goodies. If you can’t resist the departmental pitch-in buffet, make sure you get there early while food is still hot. Once again, foods left out for more than two hours are perfect for bacteria to set up camp.
All Washed Up
Fewer than half of all Americans wash their hands before eating lunch. The rule is to always wash your hands before, during and after food handling. If you have no time to wash with soap and water, use a hand sanitizer stored in your desk drawer. Mom was right to always say, "Wash your hands before eating." Now, go wash up!