We have all experienced that feeling of disgust from seeing a mess left behind in a shared space. Whether at a restaurant, office (I’m looking at you, microwave), or even your own home, nobody wants to be left with the mess. Now imagine beyond the crumbs, trash, and sicky soda residue down to a microscopic level and the invisible host of germs that was left behind as well. It is true for anyone: where we go our germs follow. However, the potential spread of these germs is up to us. Action on each of our parts can and should be taken to avoid spreading germs.

Leave No Trace

Growing up hiking and camping in the Idaho wilderness I learned at a young age the concept “leave no trace.” Similar principles as those I learned to protect natural spaces can be followed to protect and preserve our safety in shared spaces from cold and flu-causing germs:

  1. Plan ahead, be prepared, and ask for cleaning and disinfecting products in your workspaces. As you enter a shared space, consider how you might minimize your impact on others. Avoid bringing unwanted germs into shared spaces by staying home when feeling sick or experiencing symptoms of illness. Additionally, ensure you are well equipped with supplies to help you minimize the spread of germs. This includes having hand sanitizer, tissues, and cleaning and disinfecting products, like wipes, available to be used on hard non-porous surfaces throughout your workday. This might involve asking your facility manager or custodian to supply these items in the breakroom or conference rooms.
  2. Dispose of trash and disinfect your spaces to prevent the spread of germs. Regularly assess your space and remove any garbage that may have accumulated. Don’t be that person with the pile of used tissues on their desk. Promptly deposit used tissues and other waste in the trash can. After tossing your trash, be sure to use hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to clean your space. This helps you to avoid taking those germs with you and possibly contaminating another area.
  3. Be considerate of others and clean or disinfect shared spaces after use. Not all shared spaces are created equal. If working near others, be respectful of their space. Consider wearing a mask as appropriate and following guidance for masking and social distancing. Practice respiratory etiquette like coughing or sneezing into our elbow or tissue. Prepare the space for the next user by using disinfecting wipes on high touch surface and other shared items. Be sure to leave the space better than you found it.
  4. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Understand that it takes a group effort and for everyone working together to create a safer environment. It’s going to take supporting each other for positive change to occur and even then, it will take time.
Image credit: Dr. Grace Ferris

As cold and flu season approaches let’s do our part to keep healthy by maintaining cleanliness in our shared spaces. To help in this effort, place signage such as the Cold and Flu Prevention Quick Tips around shared spaces to serve as a reminder of practices that help stop the spread of cold and flu viruses. Likewise, partner with your facility manager or custodian to make sure disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer are available in conference rooms, break areas, and other common spaces. Offices or desk clusters should also have cleaning wipes nearby and readily available. If you find yourself in need, speak up so you can have the right tools to be safe. Remember, it is a shared responsibility to safeguard our spaces and leave no trace to help keep germs at bay.