If you've ever suspected that work wasn't good for you, then a new study reveals you were right all along. The researchers discovered that two thirds of people are working in offices, factories and warehouses which are gross enough to constitute a health hazard.
The study, by Hayward Baker, found that 35% of people have already picked up an illness at work, and one in five have been struck down with food poisoning or caught a stomach bug because of dirty conditions. The biggest complaints were slippery floors, unhygienic work colleagues, unsanitary toilet facilities, cluttered floors and dirty kitchens.
Of course, it shouldn't be overlooked that Hayward Baker is a personal injury lawyer, so has a vested interest in reminding people of the risks at work and how much compensation people could apply for if they suffer as a result.
However, the study reflects findings by the University of Salford that our computer and phone are home to around 10 million bacteria - 400 times more than the average toilet seat. It added that unhygienic working conditions are a key contributor to the 131 million working days lost in the UK to illness.
The experts behind this study, however, didn't focus on the cash you could get from your boss if work makes you ill - but on preventing the illness in the first place.
They suggest five steps to stop work making you ill.
1. Every working day should start with washing your hands - particularly if you have travelled to work on public transport. It's also essential that everyone washes their hands for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom.
2. It's also worth taking anti-bacterial gel to work, and applying it after leaving the bathroom, and throughout the day. You should also take in anti-bacterial wipes or spray, to clean down your desk, phone and computer at the start of each day, and before you eat. Of course, the idea is that the office is cleaned overnight or early in the morning, but nobody has as much a vested interest in banishing bacteria from your desk as you do.
3. You need to apply some basic common sense too. If the kitchen at work is a disaster zone, and the fridge is filled with rotting food, then don't use it. Have a word with your boss to see if you can get it cleaned up, but until it's fit to use, err on the safe side.
4. Likewise if the closest bathroom is a disaster zone, it may be worth taking a trip to a quieter area of the workplace, where the toilets are used less heavily.
5. From an injury perspective, 'slippy floors' need to be reported, and if nothing is done about it, you might have to find an alternative route through the workplace. Meanwhile, cluttered floors need to be cleared. It may not be your job to do this sort of thing, but if you're worried about tripping over something, the most sensible thing to do is to move it - rather than wait to break your ankle on it and sue the company.
These small steps should help address some of the biggest issues in the workplace, and keep you safe. Quite what you do about 'unsanitary colleagues' may be a slightly more sensitive issue.