How gross can I get, right? Your Desk Is A Toilet?!
Admit it… you have eaten many snacks and/or meals at your desk. As a disclaimer, I fall into the “I have eaten too much food at my desk to count” category. Today, I am taking the Mother Approach; “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Hold onto this thought before I ramble further. There are too many studies for me to quote, so I will start off with – your desk is 400x filthier than the average toilet.
And many of us eat on our toilet daily. I mean, eat at our desk daily.
Eating at your desk is unhealthy for obvious reasons. But there are other points of concern beyond the mess. If your job involves extensive sitting, and you do not stand regularly to stretch, you are at risk. You are exposing yourself to a higher risk of varicose veins, stiff joints, and poor gut function. The recommendation is five minutes every hour. If you are working at great lengths without a breather, you will also experience a decrease in brain capacity, efficiency, and creativity. Lastly, and this is not a shocker, there is a propensity for weight gain due to continuous snacking and less movement if you sit for long periods of time.
I spent over two decades working in the capacity of worksite wellness. At one time, I was simultaneously managing tens of thousands of employees. Therefore, I have heard every excuse about health and wellness struggles from entry-level to the C-suite and right back down. I took personal responsibility to convince the executives that employees’ full spectrum of healthcare mattered and worked to convince employees that the executives and the company who wrote their checks cared.
I was the middle (wo)man. I loved it. Peggy the Passionate Fixer.
Every quarter, I received an email charging me to “do my part.” As I reviewed the bottom line, the figures were either ebony or bloody. And you better “fix the latter.” Over the years, corporations expanded their eagle eyes. They shifted from a perspective of reducing healthcare expenditure such as a reduction in claims to a larger movement. Absenteeism, “presenteeism” (poor concentration, hidden or masked illnesses, and distractions from personal issues), and job satisfaction became hot topics.
Insurance companies hopped on the “wellness” wagon and all of a sudden it was an incentive game. Everyone began offering goodies to those who made healthy behavior changes. Companies formed wellness committees, and offered discounts for gym memberships, and punch cards for onsite fitness classes attendance.
My pitch remained steadfast. The bottom line and/or the longevity of a company is a reflection of how employees are treated. We the people for the people kind of thing.
First, focus on your greatest asset – the peeps! Don’t chase the quarterly reports. Employee survey results have remained steadfast over the years. Employees want to be valued, heard, and treated fairly. Secondly, if management’s verbal and physical messages do not match their actions, it will make or break the company. If messages and actions are not sincere, consistent, and smell fishy at any point, the trust is lost.
Employees watch everything management says and does. Who do you think runs the rumor mill? Management should not spew out of one side of their mouth, “We care about the quality of your life.” Yet show the opposite behavior by working 15-hour days with no breaks and three hours of sleep. Actions need to match words. “All those in the room who have raised children say, I!”
Some companies listened to me, and some didn’t. Let’s say I have a good track record, and we will leave it at that.
I gravely disagree with Woody Allen’s quote, “80% of success in life can be attributed to simply showing up.” Not when it pertains to the workplace. Showing up only means a warm body clocked in for the day.
There are several actions a company can take to show employees they care about their health, wellness, and wellbeing. Can a treadmill in a refaced closet make a difference? Sure. How about a lunch-n-learn presentation sharing tips on quality sleep? Okay. Declaring proudly that there will be no more pizza at the weekly staff meetings; farm-to-table options have arrived. Oh yeah. But execs have to walk the talk, too. The Candid Cameras are on and simply put – “Lip service is a disservice.” I always loved saying that!
I am circling back now to the toilet. Management sends many confusing “take a break/don’t take a break” messages.
As an executive, if you work ten-hour days and never take a break, don’t waste your oxygen telling your employees you believe in work-life balance. They know you burn the midnight oil, and they also see you eating at your desk.
Management purchased many physio-balls for employees to sit on and rolled in stand-up desks all in the name of wellness. You know what your employees are saying? “They want us to move a bit more, lose weight, and never stop working.” You heard it here.
Unless you have a mandated take-a-break policy or you consistently walk the talk by taking breaks yourself, your actions imply it isn’t cool to do so. There are companies that literally ring bells every hour demanding everyone get up and stretch. You could always get a megaphone.
Employees need to get away from their desks. That is why they eat there. One of the best mandates you could put in place is a No-Eating-At-Your-Desk policy. It sounds ghastly, but it works. Post signs – No Eating At The Toilet. Okay, going too far; I agree.
You ask why your employees are always sick? Let’s just focus on the desk area alone. A smartphone has 25,000 microbes, a toilet has about 1200. Read that again!!! Your keyboard has 3,500 microbes per square inch. Read that again!!! And I won’t even mention writing utensils, your external mouse, and other personal items.
If you are reading this at your workstation, you are looking at up to 10 million little bacteria friends. If you are eating at your desk at this moment, you just bumped that number up.
Clean your desk every few days with bacterial wipes. Dump the crumbs out of your keyboard and blast it with a dust can sprayer. And…
No more eating at the toilet!