Dirty Secrets: British Workers Reveal Gross Office Habits

Dirty Secrets: British Workers Reveal Gross Office Habits

Read Time: 5 Minutes


25 Mar 2024

In the bustling world of office dynamics, there are secrets lurking amidst the hum of photocopiers and the clatter of keyboards. From eating at your desk, to how frequently your coworkers wash their hands, we surveyed 1,000 UK employees, delving deep into the heart of their daily routines to uncover the hidden truths behind their grossest habits.


The Dirty Truths Lurking in Your Office Environment

We asked survey respondents how often they cleaned their computers or work areas. An admirable 36%, over a third of Brits, revealed that they clean their desk on a weekly basis.

Getting grosser, 27%, over a quarter of us only clean our work areas monthly, with a shocking 14% only having a clean every few months.

The most shocking of all, however, is that more than 5% of Brits admitted to cleaning their areas yearly or never at all!


How Clean Is Your Mug? Drink in These Disgusting Habits

A clean 32% of Brits shared that they clean the mug, glass or water bottle every time they get a new drink at work, with 44% giving their drinking vessel a daily wash.

10% of Brits only wash their beloved mug just a few times a week, with 1 in 20 only washing their mug once a week!

Shockingly almost 1 in 10 Brits revealed that they never, that’s right never, wash their mug, water bottle or glassware when enjoying a drink at work! Either they’re lucky enough to have someone doing it for them or they’re harbouring some serious tea stains and bacteria!


Filthy Fingertips: The Reality of Office Hand Hygiene

Research shows that your computer or laptop keyboard is 20,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Which is why we asked survey respondents just how often they wash their hands at work, not including bathroom breaks.

An admirable 16% of respondents shared that they frequently wash their hands after touching things around the office. Whether that's before making a drink, after shaking hands at an in-person meeting or using someone else's computer, over one in six of us take the time to wash our hands, possibly made more important by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most popularly, 49% of Brits shared that they only wash their hands when having something to eat.

Interestingly, 15% revealed that they wash their hands when they can remember, but most surprisingly, 19%, almost one in five Brits shared that they only wash their hands after going to the toilet and don’t at any other point.

To delve deeper, we asked survey respondents if they’ve ever been guilty of not washing their hands after popping to the loo. One in nine Brits shockingly revealed that they don’t wash their hands every time they go to the toilet. How many of your co-workers could be harbouring dirty hands?


How We’re Spreading Germs, Not Cleanliness

We’ve all been there, a spilled cuppa, exploded food in the microwave, wet hands. But what’s the best way to clean up spillages in the workplace?

Our survey revealed that 45% of us would use whatever is convenient to clean up a spill or stain, from the scary communal office teatowel to the sleeve of your jumper, over two-fifths of us are probably spreading more germs when we intended to clean up.

20% revealed that they would only do the above if caught short in a situation where there’s nothing else to use, whereas 32%, almost a third would make the effort to use more appropriate and disposable paper towels in every instance.


Your Colleagues Are Common Cold Superspreaders

We asked survey respondents their thoughts on coming into the office with a cold.

With many of us being able to work from home or take a more flexible and hybrid approach to our roles, an admirable 48% of respondents would still work through a cold but would do so from home.

Not so nice, 39%, almost two in five of us would still come into the office if we were harbouring a cold. Spreading germs, coughing in communal areas and being a harbourer of germy tissues, it seems that over a third of Brits have no problem sharing their cold with the rest of the office.


What Other Gross Habits Are Your Colleagues Harbouring?

Here are the top 7 grossest habits Brits admitted to:

  1. With more of us having less time to grab a bite in a busy working landscape, it’s probably no surprise that over 60% of us eat at our desks or workspace. But with plenty of spills, crumbs and grubby fingers touching our computer, mouse and phone, it’s certainly not the best habit to have.
  2. From that lonely yoghurt at the back of the fridge or leftovers that are a little too left over, over 30% of Brits admitted to eating something in the office that’s way past its use-by date!
  3. Stinky feet! Shockingly 23%, almost a quarter of workers admitted to taking their shoes off at work, talk about getting comfortable.
  4. More than one in six of us admitted to being pen chewers, maybe think twice before asking to borrow a pen from a colleague.
  5. 14% of us are guilty of leaving dirty mugs, spoons and dishes in the sink, would you do this at home?
  6. Whether it's mouldy fruit or that mug you meant to clean, almost one in six of us are accountable for leaving food or drinks in our desk drawers for long periods of time.
  7. One in seven of us have left food in the work fridge for far too long.


But it’s not all bad…

59% of respondents shared that they’ve always got tissues to hand, with 41% making sure they’ve always got hand sanitiser in their work area and 30% making a conscious effort to bring deodorant or spray to work.


Taking a look back to our survey in 2021, we uncovered which pre-lockdown office habits we wanted to ban for good on our return to the office.

Respondents certainly didn’t disappoint, listing the top 5 office habits they find the most disgusting as follows:

  • Not washing your hands after visiting the toilet – 42.9%
  • Coming into work with a cough/cold – 37.4%
  • Kiss greetings – 32.9%
  • Hugs – 27.8%
  • Keeping unwashed gym kit in the workplace – 26.5%

Other honourable mentions that didn’t make the shortlist for grossest office habit also include pen-chewing (24.8%), high fives (23.3%) and sitting on co-workers’ desks (19%).


Are you guilty of any of these gross office habits? Had to tell someone you work with to stop doing something down right disgusting? Let us know your thoughts on social media by using #instantprintuk!


About the Author

Hi, I’m Ally and I’m instantprint’s PR Lead. I enjoy writing content to help small businesses succeed and inspire them to get creative with their print marketing.