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Blog 6.: Bless you!

Being specialists in office spaces, we often check on our clients and ask for feedback regarding the challenges they face and the solutions we offer to answeer those. At the beginning of the new year, and also the flu season, it’s common to experience about 30-35% being absent from the workplace and this is caused more likely by the annual pandemic than the winter ski breaks.


Most of our clients feel that real estate optimization efforts and the use of modern technologies support more and more people to work effectively from an unchanged or smaller sized office. The positives this method offers are clearly visible to anyone, because reduced real estate costs, geographically distributed project teams and the utilisation of appropriate information technology yield more efficient workflow. A good example could be any outsourced service center.

Unfortunately however, sharing the workstations, interior elements and instruments also means sharing the microbiological environment, plus, as far as we can see for year 2015, about 37% of all workers will be mobile workforce. An IT gadget (smartphones, laptops, peripheries) provides haven for roughly 3800-4000 bacteria per square centimeters and Dr Charles Gerba, germ specialist at the University of Arizona, says that the average worker comes in contact with an average of 10 Million bacteria per day at the office. This is especially worrying when related to the fact that our radical work rates, the stress we must endure and the densely populated spaces result in personaly hygiene getting less attention than it should. This leads to seasonal epidemic illness being referred to as the second most likely reason for workplace absenteeism right next to stress. Just thinking of the monetary cost of this loss makes us shiver.

Noticing the above, global leaders stand up to fight our unwanted guests, microbes. The antimicrobial arsenal means the use of certain chemicals for most of us, however there are more ways to fend off our fellow invisible travellers. For example, certain forms of silver and copper were used by the ancient Greeks to clear water supplies and there are also quite a lot of botanical solutions tho fight microbes – cinamon, clove, bay and thyme to name a few. Every antimicrobial solution works by blocking the metabolism of their cells or by breaking their cell walls and stopping their life functions. Additional support may come from artificially formed surfaces, like Sharklet®, a surface material consisting of microscopic diamond shapes, similar to those on the sharks’ skin, that create an uninhabitable environment for micorbes.

Care should be taken however, when using these solutions, as not all microbes are harmful: the health of our bodies and immune system is based on the perfect balance of millions of our tiny cohabitants. Dr Michael Schmidt, from the University of South Carolina, believes that the main purpose of antimicrobials in our built environment is to ease the stress on our immune system, instead of completely relieving it from pressure, because the human body can easily fight off the average attack of microbes.


Steelcase – as the leading office furniture manufacturer – and its Workplace Research teams working in collaboration with the most renown antimicrobial R&D and manufacturing firms learned that the next generation workspace should incorporate antimicrobial solutions. The first actual product of this is the BactiBlock® surface, developed by industry  experts NanoBioMatters exclusively for Steelcase, that materializes in hte form of Steelcase’s Ologydesk range. The unique solution covers the most touched surfaces of the desk with silver ions that greatly reduce the number of microbes being able to hold ground on it.

It’s clearly visible now that because workspaces are getting ever more densely populated and we spend more and more time int here, preparing our environment against microbes is essential in creating a healthy workplace. The use of antimicrobials doesn’t mean that personal hygiene could be less important in the future, but it could greatly add to the success of a company by keeping the germs away from our colleagues, who can therefore be more effective in a more healthy work environment.


Source: Steelcase 360° magazine, Issue 67, „Wellbeing: a bottom line issue”

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