Do men outnumber women in your office? Yuck.

by Stephanie Zillman01 Jun 2012

We knew the battle of the sexes could be brutal, but few would have predicted bacterial warfare. New research has shown male dominated offices have “significantly more bacteria” than women’s.

Researchers from San Diego State University scoured office apparatus in New York, San Francisco and Tuscon, Arizona to reveal the most germ-laden surfaces are office chairs, and land-line phones.

The study focused on the different amounts of bacterial growth on different surfaces, and whether gender-based environments and cities were factors. Researchers found bacteria was most plentiful on chairs and phones while curiously, keyboards and mice had comparatively lower amounts of bacteria. Notably, the team found that offices principally occupied by men contained significantly more bacteria.

As to exactly why male dominated work environments were more germy, scientists hypothesised it comes down to poor male hygiene. “Men are known to wash their hands and brush their teeth less frequently than women and are commonly perceived to have a more slovenly nature,” the researchers noted in the PloS One journal.

However, before male workers are sent for a top-to-toe hose down, Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, told the Sydney Morning Herald that a larger body mass may also be to blame for the discrepancy.

Collignon said that because men were generally bigger than women, there was more surface area for bacteria colonisation. He also stressed the need to remember that despite the misconception, bacteria is not usually harmful. “Most of the bacteria are good bacteria…we’d be in trouble without them,” he said.

Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at University of Arizona, said the main reason office items have such high levels of bacteria is simply because people touch them so often, adding that simple office hygiene can reduce infection risks dramatically. “A lot of people eat at their desks all the time so it basically turns into a bacteria cafeteria,” Gerba said, adding that wiping down work areas with disinfectant wipes every day reduces bacteria significantly.

Professor Collignon added that people who were concerned about bacteria should make sure they washed their hands and their work area, but also warned against being overly cautious. “The last thing we want to do is napalm everything,” he said.


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